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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Nocturne 2023: You are an artist

"Sweater Tree"
"Sweater Tree"

Every Nocturne, the combination of glorious spring weather, good music, interactive art projects and the buzz of students all over campus creates an atmosphere ripe with possibility. 

“Something that this experience has taught me is even within the organizers, we all approach art and imagine it in different ways…” said President of Nocturne Patricia Hughes ’24. “There [are] so many… aspects of [Nocturne projects]... that are incredible in their own ways because it’s not only a demonstration of student artistic abilities, but it’s also how different we all are that is beautiful.”

However, Nocturne wasn’t all smooth sailing this year. Due to forecasted rain on the original event date, April 29, Nocturne leadership and advisors from within the college opted to postpone the annual arts festival a week later to May 6. Fortunately, the early May showers cleared up by the rescheduled Saturday date, and students began circulating about campus. Starting at 7:00 p.m., Middlebury transformed into a collage of exhibits and performances ranging from the profound to the absurd.

One piece that combined absurdity and depth was performed by Chad Kim ’23.5, who donned a ghillie suit and rolled for an hour across the center of Middlebury's campus, from Davis Family Library to the chapel. “I feel very calm right now,” he said upon the completion of his odyssey. “I didn’t have any of my own issues, I was just a bush, and that’s all that really mattered in the moment...[I wanted to] ride that gray area, the boundaries between being a human and… experiencing life as a non-human entity. What if I wasn’t at Middlebury and I didn’t have all of the complications of my life that I do now? Bushing really liberated me from those acerbic, human feelings,” Kim reflected.

Throughout the rest of campus, students read displayed poetry, participated in interactive painting exhibits and had their fortunes told, while musicians and singers played from every niche on campus, creating a soundtrack for the evening. Marina Prikis’ ’25 smokey vocals spilled down the hill from the Gampitheater. The band Chapel Hill had their debut performance of the song “Milk,” which ended in the group’s  singers drinking and wearing milk products. Another band, Polyecstasy, rocked to a cover of Scooby-Doo. And then there was “Scrapefruit The Musical: The Scroperatic: The Revenge of the Proleterrorrat: A Punk Opera” by Scrapefruit.

“Scrapefruit: The Musical” tells the story of city and country rats who unite to overthrow the exploitative Bat King and end his blood-sucking regime. “‘Scrapefruit: The Musical’ aims to cultivate class consciousness in the viewer,” Asa Skinder ’23, the band’s bassist explained. Skinder added that the band’s musical aesthetics fell between “avant-garde punk” and “scrapcore.” 

Scrapefruit (the band) spent weeks writing and practicing their musical, as well as designing and constructing larger-than-life paper mâché puppets. The band members initially did not realize how much work they had committed to by planning to write and perform a musical, and they did not end up having time to practice a full run-through before the performance. Yet the show was a clear hit, bringing the audience members to their feet to bounce, stomp and dance passionately throughout the spectacle.

Nocturne was a magical, spell-casting moment for performers and audience members alike. No matter what was happening on personal, communal or political levels, for one evening students were able to escape and transcend the acute stresses of college life, elevating everyone into their own artistic realms. 

“We think of an artist as… a specific type of person. You are an artist or you are not. And something that is so special about Nocturne is that it shows people that we’re all artists. We all have this innate human quality,” Hughes said.