‘Yell whatever you want as loud as you can’ at a Soap Box Talk

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Students enjoy Eleanor Jeansonne's (junior) performance at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 29, 2022. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) debuted their first-ever Soap Box Talk event Oct. 29. For the occasion, Occidental students gathered on the Academic Quad for musical performances, improv and TED Talk-esque speeches.

ASOC members Rachel Iskanian (junior), director of external affairs, and Max Manzare (junior), junior senator, were both a part of the committee that organized the Soap Box Talks. Iskanian said the event is meant to give students a platform to showcase their talents, passions and opinions.

The committee catered Wolfie’s Hot Chicken for a two-hour set of acts — including performances by Gabriel Morton* (sophomore), Eleanor Jeansonne (junior), Calder Stokes (sophomore), Lucas Donovan* (sophomore) and Avinash Iyer* (junior). (While three of those people work for this newspaper, do not come at us — it was unintentional. We avoid conflicts of interest when we can; we just have a lot to say.)

Iyer’s act was the only opinion-based speech of the nightcomically conveying their perspective on different economic functions and the ego of economists. At the end of the speech, they engaged the crowd by answering audience questions and cracking jokes.

Iskanian said that sometimes people are a little scared to share their opinions, and Soap Box Talks create a space for that.

“Just do anything — perform a musical act or show anything that [students] are passionate about,” Iskanian said.

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Students attentively watch performers at Soap Box Talks at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 29, 2022. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

The opening act was a duo performance by Morton and JeansonneJeansonne said their nameless band performed two original songs: Jack Frost” and “Hand Me the Vape, as well as a cover of I Love You Big Dummy.”

“We like to put stupid lyrics over [a melody] to get quick lyrics,” Jeansonne said. The vape [lyrics] stuck. It is ironic… and literal.

The crowd passionately jumped and danced to their set, and Jeansonne said it was awesome that many of their close friends were a part of the moshing students.

The other musical act of the night, performed by Stokes, also got students dancingStokes performed four original and unreleased songs: “Summer Breeze,” “Satanic Woman,” “Mamacita” and “Spliffy.”

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Calder Stokes (sophomore) performs at Soap Box Talks at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 29, 2022. Anna Beatty/The Occidental

Stokes said he most enjoyed performing “Spliffy” and “Mamacita” because of their feel-good sounds. “Satanic Woman” is the kind of song he would hope to hear on the “Red Dead Redemption” soundtrack, he said, and although he dropped his guitar pick during “Summer Breeze,” he said he still had fun.

Morton and fellow songwriter James Grayson (sophomore) joined Stokes on stage for several of the songs. Stokes said the three met in New York several times over the summer to produce the originals, though this Soap Box Talk was the first time he performed live.

“Live performances are the best way people can see the person behind the song,” Stokes said. “I wanted to bring that energy. I think it was there, which I was happy about as well.”

Mathew Vickers* (sophomore) gave a short and impromptu stand-up comedy set, and the event organizers themselves performed a word-by-word story, adding to the narrative plot one word at a time. The night ended with an acoustic song on guitar by Donovan, the scene lit by streetlights as the crowd sat together around the performer.

Iskanian said that Soap Box Talks give students a voice to do something that they normally would not be able to do during their day-to-day lives at Occidental.

“Get up in the middle of the quad and yell whatever you want as loud as you can!” Manzare said.

Iskanian said the next Soap Box Talk will be held Nov. 12.

*Gabriel Morton, Avinash Iyer and Matthew Vickers are staff writers for The Occidental.

*Lucas Donovan is an illustrator for The Occidental.

Contact Karina Smith at ksmith3@oxy.edu