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Columbia Protests: The Musical

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at a musical satire by undergraduate students from Columbia and Barnard that took aim at university administrators. We’ll also find out how music therapy is helping some children in Brooklyn cope with the stress of homelessness.

Ryan Crawford, left, and Hayley Lugg performing in a musical called “Mayday,” this year’s Varsity Show, at Columbia on Sunday.Credit…Bing Guan for The New York Times

Theater people always say the show must go on, and so it did in an auditorium at Columbia University less than 100 yards from a pro-Palestinian encampment, where police officials arrested more than 100 students on April 18.

This year’s Varsity Show, a musical called “Mayday,” is a comparatively tame satire that presents a university administration as tone-deaf and unresponsive to student concerns. The director, Caroline Egler, a senior at Barnard College, which shares academic resources and extracurricular activities with Columbia, called the show “a love letter to the students” — and a denunciation of the Columbia administration’s “censorship and repression” now and in the past.

In the last few days, administrators and students have taken part in negotiations but have not come to an agreement about removing the encampment, which students reoccupied after the arrests. Columbia sent an email to students on Friday saying that bringing back the police “at this time” would be counterproductive.

As for “Mayday,” the script contained no mentions of the Israel-Gaza war or the demonstrations. Onstage, student actors portrayed presidents of the 270-year-old school. A couple of the actors wore powdered wigs, as Columbia’s early leaders might have done.

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