Arts

Wait, you mean it’s not “Hack, Pun, Tool?”

MTG revives the MIT musical Hack, Punt, Tool with new cast

MIT Musical Theatre Guild presents Hack, Punt, Tool
Composed by Julie Henion ‘11
Lyrics by Daniel Levine ‘12
La Sala de Puerto Rico, W20
Playing February 9-11 at 8 PM

Listen to Story Jack (Grace Kuffner ’20) as she welcomes you to “a wondrous place, a marvelous realm--the land of MIT!” In other words, listen to Story Jack tell the tale with the greatest, most elaborate inside joke of the world: MIT’s hacker culture.

You could go anywhere in the world and find someone with a Brass Rat and said person will recognize the jokes, the references, the course numbers. MIT's culture seems to balance the hardcore with the hardk0re, the socially inept nerd with the street smart “criminal,” the tooling and the punting. From MIT’s support of the beloved modern art sculptures around campus to its commitment to technological research, it melds together into a unique arena. As many MIT students would attest, the Institute is a remarkably special place.

In Hack, Punt, Tool, MIT clichés abound as cheerful and naive freshman Billie Rogers (Phoebe Piercy ‘20) enters MIT, singing “I Want to Be Hardk0re.” With her newfound freshmen friends Conner (Maura Hennessey ’17) and Ryan (Dustin Doss ’17), she joins the hacker team led by Corot (Kim Dauber ‘18) to see through a hack on the dome. Drama ensues as the police team led by Bruce E. Sprinkles (Jacob Miske ‘20) tries to catch these hackers and former hacker Kepler (David Favela ’18) has some history with Corot. Meanwhile, a romance between Billie and Tess (Ellena Popova ’17) develops only to be temporary trampled upon by the monster Novembat and the ensemble of singers shouting “PARETE LEGI NOVEMBRI!”

With an original score and witty lyrics, the musical plays off stock characters with a lighthearted spin, never feeling boring or drawn out. The good fun of it is in the lyrics, with a plethora of references to modern art (and one particular work’s consequential destruction by the musical Campus Police’s blimp) and historic hacks (“Auroux! Auroux! Auroux!”) when MIT was more hardcore. Its predictable storyline never hinders the musical but rather enhances it, as the words both satirize MIT’s idiosyncrasies while never forgetting to celebrate them.

You just have to smile a bit when watching these freshmen slowly learn MIT’s vocabulary. You might even snicker every time Tess and Billie’s romantic overtures are stopped by a thundering sky warning them of the Novembat. And you can’t help but laugh when the donut-loving campus policemen break into a choreographed dance number or when the overly determined Sergeant Sprinkles leads them on a mission in their flying blimp.

What this musical captures so well is just how pervasive MIT culture is. Prospective students grow excited with the hacking, the psetting, and all that jazz. Froshlings and prefrosh are inducted into the culture through a more or less sink or swim approach, usually with those that swim working together. Juniors and seniors grow jaded with the work that they end up putting in. But most people survive with the help of their friends, as alum fondly recall. If teamwork and friendship had a soundtrack, this musical would be it. MIT culture has always left an indelible experience on its students and this musical does the same.

Humorous and clever, cheesy yet endearing, Hack, Punt, Tool is a labor of love from past MIT alumni. It might seem preachy and corny for non-MIT viewers, and its jokes and puns might not make sense to the rest of the world, but that’s what an inside joke is, right? The “inside” part of the joke is what makes the references special. It’s a testament to the longevity of the Institute’s traditions that the musical still feels new despite having been written a few years ago with a different cast.

After all, “there’s more to life than hacking. There’s more to life than punting. There’s more to life than tooling.” So go watch this musical. It's hardk0re.