From the Boardroom to the Stage

“The Need-based Fellowship of the Ring,” HBS Show 2018
Brooke Biederman, Contributor

HBS Show’s Executive Producer Brooke Biederman (MBA ’19) talks with Executive Director Savannah Greene (MBA ’19) about her directing style, insider details from the rehearsal rooms, and the storied show’s first performance in the new Klarman Hall.

“HBS Show is one of our most important traditions. It gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves, and reminds us that even though we may not come from similar backgrounds, we now have a shared set of experiences that connect us,” Greene says. She is talking about No Clue: The Case You Can’t Prepare For, which she directs at the new Klarman Hall next week.

No Clue pokes fun at various aspects of the business school experience. Nothing is spared, certainly not the famously opaque admissions process, nor the typically type-A student body, nor the plethora of apps each hyper-connected section uses to keep in touch. “How else would I keep up with the section Snapchat, Slack, Facebook, GroupMe, iMessage Chat, WhatsApp, and MySpace?” a character offers in defense of her owning a backup phone.

On why she became a director:

SG: “When I was 11, my mom brought me to see Kelsey Grammer in Macbeth on Broadway. At the end right before Macbeth kills himself, the entire audience was silent and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do it!’ Even at 11, theater had the power to move me.

My high school had no student-run productions, so I petitioned the drama department to let me direct a show. I remember standing backstage during the performance, watching the show unfold, and thinking how wild and invigorating it was to see a vision that had existed in my head come to life. From then on, I directed whenever I could, both in college and when I had the opportunity after graduation.”

On her directing style:

SG: “I like to be prepared, but also open to change. I meet with Associate Director Jade Enns (MBA ’20) and Associate Director Farrah Bui (MBA ’20) before every week’s rehearsals to go over blocking page-by-page … where everyone stands, and where they move to and from during the scenes. Then in rehearsal we adjust in real time. My favorite part of rehearsal is when I can put my script down to watch and take notes. When possible, I like my notes to be in the form of questions to the actors. ‘What was your reaction to that? How are you feeling about this person at this moment?’

I trust the actors—they are dedicated and have great instincts. They ask questions that I haven’t considered, and often make suggestions about their characters that had not occurred to me.

I’m also grateful to be surrounded by a brilliant creative team: the associate directors; our head writer, Ann Hewitt; our music director, John Swisher; and our head choreographer, Sarina Huang. This show is truly a collaboration that draws on the talents of each person involved. It’s an ongoing reminder to assemble the best possible team and let everyone build off of one another.

On what it means to direct the inaugural show in Klarman Hall:

SG: “It’s important to me that we put on a production that sets a high standard for what the show in Klarman can be in the years to come. And it’s an exciting creative challenge, because it’s not built to be a traditional theater and no one has really tested its capabilities. There’s no precedent, and I’m fortunate to have a phenomenal team working with me to figure out how we make the most of it.”

On her hopes for this year’s show:

SG: “I want you to laugh a lot, to be blown away by the talent at this school, and to leave feeling closer to the HBS community. I hope the show allows us to reflect on this collective experience and reminds us that we shouldn’t take it all too seriously.”

No Clue: The Case You Can’t Prepare For runs April 8–10 at 7:30 p.m. each night in Klarman Hall. Greene directs 20 actors from the first and second years of the MBA program. A writing team of 10 students, led by Head Writer Ann Hewitt (MBA ’19), penned the original story and wrote the lyrics to No Clue’s soundtrack of dubbed musical hits. Music Director John Swisher (MBA ’19) oversees 15 musicians, and Head Choreographer Sarina Huang (MBA ’19) oversees 21 dancers who bring the musical to life. One of the most energizing things about working on a completely original piece of material is that we’re building something from scratch,” says Greene. “It’s a refreshingly blank canvas.” Don’t miss how they’ve painted it next week.

Brooke Biederman (MBA ’19) graduated with honors in 2014 from Princeton University, where she majored in English literature. Prior to HBS, Brooke worked in the film & television industry.