On Saturday evening, seven enthusiastic Swatties vied for the role of the Phoenix, Swarthmore’s new mascot. The preliminary round of auditions took place in the Lang Performing Arts Center, and was open to all. A second, closed round took place on Sunday morning, and the name of the winner will be announced on Monday.
Claire Melin and Kyle White (both ’08) were the emcees for the evening; the judges included Registrar Martin Warner, Associate Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal, assistant track and field coach Tom Reynolds, Suneal Bedi ’09, Maggie DeLorme ’10, and special guest Dave Raymond, the original mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies.
The seven contestants were Anna Baeth ’09, Juliana Macri ’09, Dan Hodson ’09, Alex Gilbert-Bono ’10, Melissa Grigsby ’09, Scott Storm ’08, and Daily Gazette reporter Finlay Logan ’08. Melin and White explained that the judges would be looking for “creativity, enthusiasm, and pep.” After a showing of brief video interviews with the contestants, it was time for the live auditions to start.
During the creativity round, each contestant displayed a special talent in a solo performance. Logan sang a poignant rendition of The Gothic Archies’ grimly humorous ballad, “The Tiny Goat.” Baeth dashed across the stage, popping the shirt collars of fifteen audience volunteers with astonishing rapidity. Macri revealed that, like the mythological phoenix, her tears had the power to heal injury. To demonstrate, Ben Young ’09 and Alex Hahn ’08 appeared onstage in full lacrosse uniform and clashed dramatically, leaving Young prostrate on the floor. After Macri shed some tears over his motionless body, he twitched and miraculously came to.
Hodson demonstrated incredible artistry as he painted Swarthmore- and Haverford-themed designs on the faces of four volunteers: the Swarthmore designs featured the letters “SWAT,” while the Haverford-themed designs were distinguished by elaborate, hand-painted tears of humiliation. Gilbert-Bono danced, struck a cowbell and blew into a bottle to accompany a recorded song, while Grigsby performed an emotional ribbon dance she had choreographed herself. Storm completed an oversized crossword puzzle onstage, treating the audience to a complicated martial arts routine as he searched for the right letters. He finished by breaking some boards.
Sixteen Feet, Swarthmore’s mens’ a capella group, sang for the audience while stagehands set up an obstacle course to test the contestants’ athleticism. These feats included turning a somersault and doing five push-ups on a training ball. As a strenuous final challenge, contestants had to jump in the air repeatedly while Melin threw stuffed animals at them.
After the obstacle course, the dance group Rhythm N Motion come onstage and performed with their usual flair. This performance was followed by the final round of the competition, which challenged the contestants to display their pep. Each competitor had to find a way to generate audience enthusiasm without speaking. Hodson painted his entire body black and red, while Storm smashed open a piÃ±ata labelled Haverford and threw candy. Logan removed her jacket to reveal her naked back, on which she had written, “Read the Gazette.”
Sixteen Feet reappeared to sing an old Swarthmore team song praising the College’s athletic might. Then, the emcees announced the names of the four finalists: Macri, Hodson, Grigsby, and Storm. To top off the evening, an unidentified Swattie donned the red-and-orange mascot costume, complete with feathers and a highly shakeable tail. Time will soon tell which of the finalists will wear this costume as the official Swarthmore Phoenix.