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The Hidden World of Hoof ‘n’ Horn

student orgs




The Hidden World of Hoof ‘n’ Horn

Why the 81-year-old student musical theater group matters


This piece is an outside contribution from Julia Medine. Julia is the President of Hoof ‘n’ Horn and a senior majoring in Public Policy.

Student groups are the lifeblood of universities. They let us create and collaborate on work that matters to us. They foster camaraderie and flourishing in ways that institutional systems cannot. Hoof ‘n’ Horn is this lifeblood—this unseen, peculiar spirit that has impacted Duke students since 1936.
Each year, Hoof ‘n’ Horn produces three mainstage productions and several cabaret-style performances. Grueling doesn’t begin to describe this process. Our actors rehearse 16 hours a week for 5-6 weeks at a time, and our production teams operate under imperfect circumstances, with small budgets and rushed technical operations.

Behind the scenes, the Hoof ‘n’ Horn executive board works tirelessly on organizational development. We make concerted efforts to expand our campus presence and publicity activities. We develop collaborative relationships and partnerships with schools and other arts leaders in the Durham community. This past spring, we raised $11,000 and held an 80th anniversary celebration. In the spring of 2018, we will proudly produce the first student group performance in the Von der Heyden Theater at the new Duke Arts Center.
Why do we do all of this? It’s not an easy question. For most of us, Hoof ‘n’ Horn is a release—a break from other burdens. For some, it’s even career preparation. For me, it means friendship, open spaces, and gratification. When you find something this easy to care about, it’s difficult to walk away.

Hoof ‘n’ Horn is like many student arts groups: under-resourced, over-worked, scrappy, inclusive, passionate, kind. But I’ll posit that we are special. I can hear it in the stories of alums, who made their closest friends here. I can feel it when I watch our productions and rehearsals. When you get to make a show with people you love, it almost doesn’t matter who’s watching. Almost.
Tonight, Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s Fall production of The Producers opens in Sheafer Theater. It’s a short walk over to the Bryan Center, and student tickets are just $10. I can promise you that like the Facebook event says, it’s a laugh-out-loud spectacle to behold. You’ll see wonderful dance numbers, beautiful costumes, and an outrageous bunch of characters. And who knows? Maybe that awkward kid from Bio class will be on stage, revealing a talent you never imagined she had. Regardless, if you look closer, you’ll realize that this is not just a product made for audiences. It’s a beautiful manifestation of a collective love for music and theater-making between friends.

Hoof ‘n’ Horn is older than the Pratt School of Engineering. It’s a Duke staple, whether or not it’s recognized as such today. Come see what we’ve been up to if you have some time this weekend. If you don’t, don’t worry. We’ll be around for another 80 years. And auditions for our Winter show start the next week.