Student revues had been part of University graduations since 1903, and Extravaganza built on this commitment to high-energy productions. The Extravaganza shows, which were performed during Capping Week, combined songs and dramatic sketches written by students in the few weeks before their performance and were undertaken by a different group each year.
Performances often cribbed stock characters and tunes from Broadway shows, but were rewritten with scripts and lyrics that poked fun at local issues and politics, as well as the trials and tribulations of student life at the University.
The shows served multiple functions—celebrating graduation, fundraising for clubs and the student association, comic relief—but primarily they were an opportunity for students to come together and have fun, and are fondly remembered by many alumni for that reason.
As the home for the social and cultural history of the University, the Library’s Heritage Collections & Archives, which can be accessed in the J.C. Beaglehole Room, have been acquiring material relating to Capping Carnivals and Extravaganza for many years.
Collections are often received from alumni who were involved in performances (a significant tranche of material was added during the ‘O Extravaganza! Reunion’ held in 1993), and there is now an impressive variety of items held in the archive such as audio recordings, flyers, posters, original scripts and some wonderful photographs of cast members and shows.
Heritage staff from the J.C. Beaglehole Room are currently combing through the Extravaganza collections to select priority material for digitisation—this includes audiovisual and photographic material for preservation purposes, and other gems that showcase the best of this colourful part of the University’s history.
Once digitised, the materials will be added to Recollect, a cloud-based software platform that the Library is aiming to launch for its digital heritage collections in early 2023. Recollect will enable the Library to make its digital assets and collections more accessible to staff, students, alumni, researchers from other organisations, and members of the public, and will also provide opportunities for viewers to enrich content by naming people or places in photographs, or adding dates and personal anecdotes.
Tapuaka—The Library’s Heritage Collections & Archives are located on Level 4 of the Kelburn Library. Items can be requested for viewing in the J.C. Beaglehole Reading Room by emailing JCBeaglehole-Room@vuw.ac.nz.
Find out more about Extravaganza by reading the reflections of P. J. Smith in the 1934 edition of Spike.