By Nash Wills, Co-Editor
On Thursday of last week, a couple of the Latino bros from A-Dorms had an asado outside of Martin’s room. Seeking a welcome break from an otherwise stressful week, I strolled over to see if I couldn’t snag a piece of the carne they were cooking. As always, the food was excellent and the company even better. At some point during the conversation, I asked everyone if they were excited about the upcoming Regional Night that Saturday. Never being one to miss a Regional Night, I was surprised by the reaction I received: a few nos, shrugged shoulders, and unenthusiastic sighs. There were a couple of halfhearted yeses, but they ended up relenting their true feelings.
The interaction was ominous and foreshadowed what was to come. As it would turn out, Saturday’s Europe, Canada, and Australia Regional Night was by no means one for the history books. In fact, it fell short of all my expectations…
Now before I go any further, I want to pause for a moment to say that this article is neither meant to denigrate Regional Night nor criticize anyone who took part in it. I have helped plan a few in the past and have even emceed one, so I understand the massive amount of effort and emotions that go into making this historical Thunderbird tradition come to life. I am, rather, trying to call attention to a number of issues that seem to have manifested with Regional Night, and which have become evident not only to myself, but also to many of my fellow students. By writing this article, I hope to initiate a dialogue about changes concerning the current state of affairs surrounding Regional Night, as well as promote increased interest amongst the Thunderbird community. I am graduating in May. It is therefore for posterity’s sake that I want to see Regional Night revert back to what it once was: a uniquely Thunderbird celebration.
I can remember, as clear as a March sky in Glendale, my first Regional Night, back in Fall 2015. It was a huge deal, especially since I was in TSG and the brunt of the planning fell to us. It wasn’t just a big deal for me, though; it was for everyone. Students, faculty, staff, alumni in the area, and even some professors all were looking forward to it —people got excited for Regional Night, period. And that enthusiasm wasn’t for naught. We brought out the works. I’m talking well-practiced and creative performances that were truly cultural in nature, a crowd eager to participate, costume changes left and right, excellent food, and impeccable decorations. There were consistent themes, someone was visibly in charge of ensuring the event flowed smoothly, everyone knew when they were performing and it all just worked.
For that one night, T-birds from the different classes and from across the years got together, and it was one huge cultural celebration. I’d go as far as to say that there were more than 600 people in attendance. I remember people having to stand against the wall because there weren’t enough seats. At last Saturday’s Regional Night, there were probably never more than 100 people at any one point.
After the festivities ended at the TEC, the party continued over at the Pub well into the wee hours of the morning. I remember calling my parents the next day and telling them how awesome it all was. I had taken part in an essential aspect of the T-bird experience and was proud of it.
So what happened? What series of events have transpired since that night in Fall 2015 that have led us to where we are now? Some think the answer is fairly straightforward: the timing was poor because of the proximity to finals; ASU has made it more difficult to plan an event; not enough people live on campus; etc…I think it’s more complicated than that. I think that we need to reconsider how we are approaching Regional Night.
Planning: Regional Night is obviously a huge event and it needs a committee dedicated to making it a success. Although I’m sure there already is some sort of committee, it needs to grow more diverse, encompassing students from all years and all classes. There were only 7 or 8 people from my MAGAM class at this past Regional Night. That’s a problem that could easily be fixed by ensuring that each class is represented in the planning and thus has a vested interest in making it a success.
In terms of skits, participants should be encouraged to practice more and to be more creative. Regional Night is supposed to be a cultural event. The best acts are always the ones that participants take seriously and which reflect interesting aspects of the various places that we come from.
Regional Night should last no more than 2 hours. Saturday’s was scheduled from 6-10pm. That’s way too long. We could easily shave off time by holding a rehearsal in the hours leading up to Regional Night (we used to do this) and by getting rid of all the unnecessary breaks in between acts. These breaks are causing the audience to lose interest and leave early.
Marketing: During my first year at Thunderbird, I was constantly hassled about participating in Regional Nights. Everyone was. It was almost as if we were being peer-pressured into joining the action – and it worked. If you weren’t participating, you were helping to set up or clean up. If you weren’t doing either one of those two things, you were at least attending the event and excited about being there. In 2015-2016 there were fewer students at Thunderbird than there are now, and yet somehow Regional Night was 3-4 times the size. There is something wrong with that.
Regional Night should consider changing to a global focus in terms of acts. We should pick a region for food and decorative purposes, but we should not exclude people wanting to do, for example, a Latin American dance for a European Regional Night. The school is simply not big enough to be picky about who is performing.
Timing: I know it can be tough because sometimes the TEC is rented out for other functions, but Regional Night should never take place over the weekend before finals, or so close to another large event, such as the past weekend’s Night of the Open Door.
Me and You: I realize that I too am the reason why Regional Night has been declining in popularity. I should have volunteered to perform. I should have volunteered to help out. I should have done a lot of things, but that doesn’t change the fact that people are more inclined to do something if you tell them over and over about it. No one is going to just volunteer, we have to ask them.
Therefore, this is a call to arms for all students. Regional Night is something that we are supposed to take pride in. It’s something that connects us, as T-birds, with one another. I am personally volunteering my time for this next one. So come on, let’s make it a Regional Night for the ages.
All photos courtesy of Thunderbird’s flickr account