Following last year’s controversy, Dolphin Show cancelled for first time since World War II


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Students performed at the 76th Annual Dolphin Show, “Ragtime” This year’s show has been cancelled, multiple sources with ties to the theatre organization confirmed.

Jason Beeferman and Vy Duong

The Dolphin Show, the largest student-produced musical in the country, will not perform its 78th annual musical this year, multiple sources with ties to the organization confirmed.

This is the first time the show has been cancelled since a period from 1944 to 1946, due to World War II.

“To see it not happening for the first time since World War II is devastating to me and a lot of other Northwestern alums who work in theater, work in Broadway or even just who are alums of The Dolphin Show,” said Abigail Doermann (Communication ‘19) who works as an intern at Aurora Productions, a Broadway production management company.

Although cancellation rumors have recently been circulating in the Northwestern and alumni theater communities, the organization has not released an official statement.

Last year, Communication senior and the show’s director Tucker DeGregory, along with many members of the executive board, resigned due to internal disagreements, especially regarding the show selection process. In the spring, some members of Dolphin’s executive board also told The Daily they felt a root cause of the resignations centered around discussions and decisions made on behalf of unrepresented identities without their input.

The resignations were soon followed by a letter posted to Facebook by Dolphin’s producers and executive board that drew controversy among the student body.

Besides a May apology for the letter, the organization has been silent about the prospect of the 78th Dolphin Show. Producers Maxwell Han and Janet Lee did not respond to requests for comment.

Doermann said the ongoing open leadership positions and the missed casting deadlines, also known as the winter generals, have “solidified” the show’s cancellation.

“They left for the summer with no board, no director, no show, no designers, no team,” Doeermann said. “You can’t come back in September with the January show and expect any type of show to happen without all of those things that would have had to happen months ago.”

Broadway producer Andrew Restieri (Communication ‘18) said his involvement with The Dolphin Show during his four years at Northwestern gave him valuable theater experience and meaningful connections. The unparalleled opportunity for a team of entirely students to create a show at such a large scale makes the show special, Restieri said.

“I feel really bad for this year’s freshman class who’ve been completely deprived from The Dolphin Show experience,” Restieri said. “These are freshmen who won’t be able to make those connections not just with each other, but with upperclassmen.”

DeGregory said this year’s show would have marked the 50th year since the Dolphin Show switched from being a synchronized swimming show in a pool to a mainstage musical, an important milestone in the show’s history.

He also lamented the missed opportunity for the freshman class.

“It was devastating to know that (it was cancelled) because it has such a legacy and has propelled people into their careers,” DeGregory said. “A lot of my friends have the jobs they do because they’re wickedly talented artists, but also because they have the experience coming from The Dolphin Show. It’s sad that there’s a blip in our crazy, amazing tradition.”

Doermann said the cancellation could impact possible funding for future shows. According to Maanas Bhatt, vice president for student activities finances in Association Student Government, large-scale student groups like The Dolphin Show apply for funds in the Spring and Fall quarters. In past years, he said, a cancelled or unsuccessful event would lead to a proportionate decrease in funding.

Doermann added that the controversy around resignations last spring and the organization’s silence ever since have caused anger to some in the Dolphin alumni community.

“The fact that they have not made a statement, canceled the show, done anything since that happened, is only adding deep insult to an already bad injury,” Doermann said.

Still, DeGregory hopes this year’s series of events can be used as a learning process for future Dolphin shows.

“I am positive that (The Dolphin Show) will come back very soon,” DeGregory said. “It will come back with full force and hopefully, more focused on how to make the art encourage reflection in its audiences.”

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Twitter: @vyhduong

A previous version of this story misstated the photo caption. It is “76th Annual Dolphin Show, ‘Ragtime,'” not “77th Annual Dolphin Show, ‘Hello Dolly!'” The Daily regrets the error.