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The Poison Ivy League Part 19-Interlude on Roman Laughter and Domestic Arrangements

May 3, 2011

We’ve reached the second of the promised interludes. Besides debate, sophomore year was an eventful time for Kimel. He edited and directed an ancient play, abandoned his roommate, and lost another election.

By 2003, the Harvard Classical Club had been dormant for almost a century. Verus, a senior in the Classics department, decided to revive it along with the annual tradition of putting on a show. Hearing by chance that Kimel had experience in theatre, he contacted him, and together, they made arrangements for the production. Rather than performing it in the original language, as was apparently done in the old days of the club, they decided to use a translation produced by students and only keep Latin for the songs. They chose the “Menaechmi” of Plautus, a musical comedy of errors from the second century BC about identical twins.

Once they received translations from almost a dozen people, Verus and Kimel edited them all into a coherent whole, emphasizing the salaciousness of the original Latin. Kimel then had the privilege of directing the play in the Agassiz Theatre, a columned, ivy-covered building on the old Radcliffe campus. Calpurnia, one of his closest friends, was the stage manager and did a fine job putting up with his demands as director. Kimel even tempted two senior faculty members into accepting bit parts. Overall, the production was a major success and received some of the best reviews of the year. The tradition continues to this day, and there is still a poster of the play in a gold frame in Boylson Hall, the home of the Classics department.

While Kimel was in the midst of this production, he put in a request to leave his roommate and was transferred to an apartment at the top of lonely tower for his pains. This roommate was Kimel’s freshman year acquaintance cursed with a nervous tic. Although he’d broken up with Cynara, whom Kimel liked before he did, bad feelings remained between them. Making matters worse, he slept in the spacious front room, and Kimel in a small bedroom in the back, with the bathroom connected to this bedroom. This led to constant intrusions, keeping Kimel up at night, and with his sleep interrupted, he became less and less tolerant of the roommate’s habits. When the roommate got particularly drunk after a certain party, it sounded like he was dying in the other room. That’s when Kimel definitively decided to leave him. It’s unfortunate that things ended on such bad terms, made worse when Kimel disappeared suddenly with all his things, gone completely without warning.

On the heels of the successful play, sleeping as soundly as Rapunzel ever did, Kimel ran for President of the Classical Club. But a clique of five sophomores, friends known to each other from the classes that they shared, were the only other members of the group who showed up at elections, and they voted for themselves for every position, forcing Kimel out. This was truly outrageous, and he left the Classical Club on bad terms, particularly with Verus, whom Kimel blamed for everything, though there was really little he could have done.

Sulla A and Kimel decided to be roommates the following year. Sulla’s current roommate, Apuleius, would be there too. Readers familiar with their history might be surprised at this turn of events, but Sulla and Kimel always left their rivalry to debate rounds and were cordial as social acquaintances. They both enjoyed their privacy and stayed out of each other’s hair. While their dynamic did not work to their benefit in debate partnerships, they were to make fine housemates.

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