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Thursday, Mar 23, 2023

The White Porch Show: A Middlebury summer production

Oct. 22 marked the world premiere of “The White Porch Show,” a 12-part sketch comedy series made through the collaborative efforts of Middlebury College comedy enthusiasts. In formal attire, fans and critics alike gathered in Axinn to watch the compilation of sketches filmed over the summer.

Following in the footsteps of “The Deli People,” a web series made in 2021 by Middlebury alumni Cole Merrell ’21 and Jacob Morton ’21, “The White Porch Show” is the product of passionate members of Middlebury’s comedy scene, whose work was made possible by a MiddChallenge grant. David Factor ’23, Emma Tzotchew ’23.5, Maddie Van Beek ’22.5 and Basil Alfaro ’22 were awarded $4,000 to create the web-series and were given an office space in Old Stone Mill, which became their writers’ room.

Over the summer, the four students rented a house on Weybridge Street, colloquially known to students as “White Porch,” a name that ultimately provided titular inspiration for the series. They lived down the street from their office, and most of them coincidentally worked at American Flatbread. 

Tzotzchew, who assumed multiple roles, including contributing writer and actress, remarked that close quarters were essential to the show's evolution. “Through living together and working together, we had creative synthesis within the same 200 feet. It transitioned from our initial idea into something that is more focused on the individual sketches, without a story arc, which allowed for more of the writing voice to come through and for us to use our environment in a way that made sense,” Tzotzchew said.

The show is satirical in nature, with multiple sketches using Vermont culture as a basis for its humor. Highlights included a scene of a primitivist emerging from the woods to engage with a local political organizer, or a song and dance devoted to kitschy refrigerator magnets. Community members from the town of Middlebury were happy to aid the project, allowing the students to utilize familiar locations, like the Marquis Theater, the Desebrais Laundromat and The Vermont Book Shop. What began just as a collaboration between college students quickly became one between the college and the greater community.  

From the moment the catchy intro plays — courtesy of Middlebury’s own Joshua Jane Music and Bottle Rocket Band — it is evident that “The White Porch Show” is not your average student project. The production quality is of professional caliber. Van Beek was the director of cinematography and head of equipment and post-production. Van Beek edited all reels, turning two-to-eight-hour-long shoots into polished and concise scenes. 

“It’s not embarrassing, which as far as student films go, is a pretty high mark to hit. If people don’t like it, it won’t be because it doesn’t look good; it will be because of the humor,” said head writer Factor.  

It is challenging to estimate the total number of students involved. Between the writing team, actors, extras, crew, guest-stars and others, the production must have included upwards of 20 people. Though there was chaos with so many different people involved, the making of “The White Porch Show” went relatively smoothly, with no reported catastrophes or setbacks. That isn’t to say it wasn’t hard — the variety of voices often lent itself to creative difference.

“Everybody wanted a really high-quality final product, so we had our goofs and gaffs, but we were also constantly writing and rewriting sketches,” said contributing writer Jonah Joseph ’24. 

The unanimous drive for a strong final product kept everyone working on the same team, with creative ambition and passion being the lifeline of the project. Many of the students involved even wish to go into the entertainment industry. 

The production of “The White Porch Show,” which Tzotchew considers “a microcosm of Hollywood,” has provided students with tangible working experience to rely on post-Middlebury. The creators do not see this project as a “one and done.” They are eager for feedback so that they can continue to work toward their individual goals in the industry. 

“We want to get feedback from people who don’t know us…whatever the feedback is it will be helpful going forward. I want people to share it with the weirdest person they know, someone you’re not in close contact with. I want feedback from the people you never talk to… Send it to your ex,” Factor said.

On Oct. 29, the full cut will be released on YouTube, followed by the release of the individual sketches. The show can be accessed and shared on the channel “The White Porch Show.”