Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 28, 2023


The JHU Mental Notes received encouraging cheers after their entertaining performance in the a cappella O-Show.

Every year the various performing arts groups at Hopkins get together to promote their work and attract new members. This past weekend was as energetic a series of shows as we have seen in some time, as the student arts groups have fully regained their momentum. A cappella groups are as refined and plentiful as ever, the dance groups continue to bring their electric energy and the theater groups have provided a spark of laughter and emotional reprieve for stressed-out students.

If you missed any of these performances and are doing your best to research which groups to join, as well as a few dates you may have missed, look no further! We’ve condensed all the info you need to know into one article (albeit a long one) for your reference. Take a look!

Theater O-Show, by Timothy McShea — Sept. 1

This year’s theater O-Show, which took place on Sept. 1 in Arellano Theater, was kickstarted by Witness Theater. Tennis Date, an original play by junior Madison Epner, sees a date swap reunite current Maryland Instate College of Arts students, who find out they’re a great match. Mark your calendars for Witness Theater’s upcoming fall showcase from Oct. 6–8.

This was followed by the Stand Up Comedy Club, which featured two sets. The first set focused on aspects of Hopkins student life, ranging from the distracted security guards to the nostalgia for early 2010s pop music. The dry delivery of the first set earned a lot of laughs from the crowd and paired well with the more energetic style of the second set, which involved the audience.

Next came The JHU Barnstormers, who performed La Mouche, a hilarious one-act play by Playwright Stephen Bittrich. The play sees two waiters — sophomore Tessa Barcelo and junior Jack Pangaro — react to a nervous customer — sophomore Yona Levine — complain about a fly in the soup.

Perhaps the most surprising and exciting performance of the night was from the sketch comedy group Throat Culture, a new addition to O-Show this year. In their debut, their one and only sketch was set in a stereotypical family diner named “Briggadee’s Diner,” where they make “all your dreams come true” — if it’s your birthday, that is. 

The whole scene was brilliantly written and elicited constant laughs from the audience in what was a grand return for the group. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, junior Novie Truitt discussed how the group’s triumphant return felt on stage.

“We were pretty nervous before getting on stage because Throat Culture’s been in a weird spot since COVID, but everyone who came up afterward wanting to audition made everything worth it,” Truitt said.

For their first show of the semester, sketch submissions or writing samples are due on Sept. 15. You can send your submissions to

Following the streak of comedy, The Buttered Niblets, the University’s premier improv group performed next. I have witnessed many of their performances in the past, though for this show the cast was a bit sparse, featuring only Eliza Principe Garcia, Gemma Watson, Camryn Byrum and Diran Jimenez. However, the four of them brought a lot of energy, meeting the standard that Buttered Niblets continues to set.

The final performance by the Dunbar Baldwin Hughes (DBH) Theater Company took a turn from the more comedy-focused sets we'd seen so far. They performed a one-act play about a newlywed couple, who originally met through letters, on their wedding night. The use of spotlights on separate actors helped create a full atmosphere which made a tender ending to a laughter-filled night.

A cappella O-Show, by Alicia Guevara — Sept. 2

The a cappella O-Show on Sept. 2 had an impressive act to follow after the theatre O-Show the previous night. 13 of the University’s a cappella groups took to the stage to perform prepared renditions of a song of their choice, all without the use of any instruments, barring their voices. While the event was open to all Hopkins students interested, its primary focus was showcasing the talent and personalities of the University’s a cappella groups for those interested in joining.

As an a cappella newbie (Pitch Perfect did not prepare me), I mistakenly expected each group to perform popular hits and show tunes. It was surprising and refreshing to listen to each group’s carefully selected and arranged songs that expressed and reflected their unique identities and musical tastes.

I loved that each group’s performance felt less like just a cover of a song and more like a celebration of each group’s character. For example, swinging sequined pants to a Black Friday parody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was an inspired and perfect introduction to The Mental Notes’ characteristically goofy and comedic performances.

Each group also championed different styles of music from artists of varying genres. For example, the The Johns Hopkins Melanotes expressed their interest in R&B/soul, hip hop and rap music, while Take Two conveyed their preference for less mainstream songs. I loved JHU Kranti’s rendition of “To the Moon” by Jnr Choi and Sam Tompkins, the perfect blend of American and South Asian styles an extension of their identity as the University’s South Asian Fusion a cappella group.

I was also amazed by the different groups’ artistic and vocal abilities. Among the awesome performances, Take Two’s mimicry of the sounds of a trumpet was a really cool addition to their performance and The Vocal Chords’ cover of Britney Spears’s “Oops!...I Did It Again” was delivered with impressive vocal finesse.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to each of the University’s a cappella groups and watching the enthusiasm of both the performers and the audience grow with each performance. The community was welcoming, open and inviting; I look forward to future performances featuring their new recruits.

Dance O-Show, by Helena Gifford — Sept. 4

The final day of Labor Day Weekend was capped off with the Dance O-Show. The entire ground floor of the Shriver Hall auditorium was packed. As soon as the lights came on and the first group was illuminated on the stage, the audience screamed with excitement, shouting the names of their friends.

The show slammed into action (pun intended) with a high-energy performance from SLAM Hip Hop Dance Group. The intensity of their act paired with the tight choreography made them a fantastic choice to open the production. 

The gig went on to showcase the skill and dedication of dance groups at Hopkins. I’m not going to lie, there were definitely points during the O-Show when I got whiplash from the changing genres and dance styles, but it does serve to show the incredible range of organizations that students can join. There’s truly something for everyone! 

The majority of the performances included youthful and modern elements, but some groups showed a special passion for high-energy and contemporary styles. The Ladybirds Dance Team performed a dynamic set that united elements of modern dance and cheerleading. Breakers Crew at JHU wowed everyone with their individualistic urban style, incorporating flips, spins, headstands and sweeps. And Korean Pop Motion (KPM) gave an awe-inspiring sequence that would be at home on any BTS or BLACKPINK stage. 

Some of the performances favored of slow grace and beauty. The Modern Dance Company at JHU gave a tender performance that captured subtler emotions of joy and sorrow. The Hopkins Student Ballet Company leaped and twirled on the stage in two performances, one set to a classical piece and another to a song from La La Land. The Lan Yun Blue Orchids Chinese Dance Team awed everyone with the visual spectacle of their water sleeves, which brought to mind the fluidity of a natural stream. 

Some Hopkins dance groups showed that traditional styles can still match and top the intensity of today’s styles. Shakti evoked gasps from the audience with the incredible precision and drama of their classical Indian dance.¡Baila! brought the heat with couples doing the salsa and dancers bringing in cumbia elements. Temps d’Afrique African Dance Troupe educated the audience on the evolution of Afrobeat. Finally, Blue Jay Bhangra capped off the night with their signature brightly colored clothing and incredibly joyful attitudes.

In conclusion...

For any freshmen reading this article, take these opportunities by the reins. If the length of this article is any indication, there are plenty of arts groups looking for new members to contribute — whether you want to conquer the attention of the student body with your witty plays and theatrical performance, your startling harmonies and clear-toned trills or your graceful and energetic dance, you can find an outlet for your personal growth and creativity. 

Sometimes it's easy to neglect the passionate culture of performance here at Hopkins, but it has a rich history waiting for your contribution. Join the party early!

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