MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections
Score of MIT's Tech Show, 1954
"Suspended in Air"
The Tech Show, an MIT tradition from 1899 to 1969, usually consisted in its earlier years of an operetta, minstrel show, or vaudeville revue. The first performance (“Minstrel Show,” in rented space at the Hollis Street Theater, May 12, 1899) was mounted as a way of paying off the debts of the MIT Athletic Association. An early Tech Show triumph was the first American performance of “The Grand Duke,” by Gilbert and Sullivan, in 1901. The shows, given annually each spring, evolved into elaborate and expensive original productions staged in Boston theaters in musical comedy format. After 1925 the shows started losing money and were reduced to an evening of skits. The Tech Show was discontinued between 1937 and 1946, but resumed operations in 1947, at which time co-eds from local colleges were invited to participate. (Performances before 1937 had included no women in the cast.)
Tech Shows from the early 1950s included the musical comedies “Call Me Mummy” (1951), “Here’s the Switch” (1952), and “Pass the Hat” (1953). A reproduction of the cover for the musical score of the 1954 production, “Suspended in Air,” is seen here. Tom Doherty, Jack Bacom, and Arnold Levine wrote the lyrics, and John Hsia and Norman Telles composed the music. The show (income, $5387.28; expense, $5902.22) was directed by Preston K. Munter and produced by Alan J. Block. About 150 people helped with the production. Three of the four women in the cast were undergraduates at Emerson College. The fourth was an MIT secretary.
In 1955 the Tech Show moved to the newly opened Kresge Auditorium on the MIT Campus, where it remained for the next 14 years. It gave its final performance, “Euphoria,” in 1969. The Tech Show merged in 1970 with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the MIT Classical Music Society to form the MIT Musical Theater Guild.
The Tech Show Records (AC 299) in the Institute Archives and Special Collections include published vocal scores for selected years and show scripts. There are manuscript orchestral scores from 1948 to 1957, and 1966 to 1968. Show posters are dated from the period 1958 forward; sound recordings from the 1950s and 1960s; financial records; and correspondence relating to the productions. Tech Show materials are available for research in the Archives, 14N-118.
Object of the Month: June 2004