12th Night- Denver's Greatest Tradition
Undoubtedly, Twelfth Night is The University Club's best-known tradition, but it in itself incorporates many other traditions as well. Born around the Wassail Bowl in 1897, roughly twelve nights after Christmas, it harkens back to medieval festivals and midwinter celebrations. For us, written and presented by the Club's members in early January, the Twelfth Night show is a spoof of local, national and international happenings of the previous year- and no person or event is immune.
It all begins in early November when the "King" (the new Club President) appoints the chairman of the show, thereafter known as "The Fool." A writing weekend is held in early December. Here is stimulated, by way of food and drink, the flow of creative juices of those who write songs, dialogue or otherwise help with the production of the show. The King is invited to attend, even if he may not have demonstrated any creative talents whatsoever. To do otherwise would be uncouth. Rehearsals then begin on the first weekday after January 1st, and are held for approximately two weeks in the College Room. All Club members, particularly new ones, are invited to participate in the production.
Black Tie Affair
Twelfth Night itself is a black-tie affair, held on Saturday evening, to which Members, spouses or life partners, dignitaries and presidents of other clubs are invited.
The evening starts with the cast members and guests intermingling with Past Presidents (in their colorful robes) and Past Fools (in their jester’s caps) at an elaborate Cocktail Party.
Greetings of "Happy Twelfth Night!" persist in the upstairs bar and reading room. A highlight of the party is the presentation of the show’s program to the Fool. After a sumptuous dinner, a Twelfth Night parade begins, led by the oldest living Fool, the world-famous University Club Band, and followed by: chefs and servers carrying litters of food (including a roasted Pig) and all the delicacies to be served at the midnight supper. Next march the U-Club's past presidents, the King, the Fool and then finally the costumed members of the cast..
The Twelfth Night show itself begins with The Fool, bedecked in a jester's colorful costume, looking up from the stage to the balcony, saying “M'Lord, M'Lord, the players are assembled!"
In reply, the King, wearing a crown and a royal red robe, begins what is known as the "King-Fool Dialogue," and ends with the commandment “Let mirth be unrefined!" A remarkable performance follows, and near the end, possibly, a cast member or The Fool may announce: "A message from the President of the United States!," whereupon The Fool presents the "Fish" award to a member chosen for a special contribution to the show. For the finale, the cast leads the audience in a standing rendition of "The Twelfth Night Chorus," a song composed by James Grafton Rogers for the 1923 Show:
Twelfth Night still comes marching
Down the dry and parching corridors of time.
Bearing ancient platters
Filled with modern matters roasted up in rhyme.
Though the years bring laughter
Grief and joy hereafter,
Twelfth Night faithfully
mirrors all our failings,
and amid bewailings
Lends a melody.