UnProm Shuffles the Decades

Kara Hooper
Timeless fashion struts the red carpet at a biennial shindig that is part parody and pure party.
For a few hours on Saturday night, the Library Courtyard appeared to have been transformed into a Grand Central Station of time travel, jammed as it was with students decked out to represent each decade from the start of the twentieth century through to the future. And a lot of them were dancing. UnProm had returned.

The brainchild of Thacher faculty emerita Phyllis Johnston, the first UnProm was held in 1993.  As the name implies, this is not the typical high school extravaganza of rented tuxes, wrist corsages, and long white limos. Instead, this biennial gala swaps pomp for irony—no outfit can cost more than $15, and the gaudier, the better—while preserving the best parts of prom: a sense of magic, great music, good food, and some moments of nostalgia as the year draws to a close.  

With an air of some secrecy, the faculty plans and produces the event for the students, and everyone finds a way to contribute. This year’s theme, “A Wrinkle In Time,” cast each student in a specific decade from the 1900s through the future. To help students envision their attire, faculty posed for photos in period garb. To outfit themselves, some students headed to thrift stores in Ojai and Ventura, while others combed through the stash of classics from UnProms past that faculty member Molly Perry keeps and unpacks every two years. This treasure trove was set up in the Middle School common room, which became a fashion hub starting on Thursday night.

Friday night brought the unveiling of assigned dates—which turned out to be actual dates on the calendar—requiring students discover who had a matching “date.” Some did this by walking around Open House with large signs bearing their date (January 3, anyone?), while many used e-mail to find out who might share their date. As the sun set on Saturday, boys picked up girls, and the fun began.

Arriving pairs posed in front of a huge clock to have their pictures taken and then walked the red carpet, where host Teddy Reeves interviewed them as the conversation was broadcast on monitors via live feed. The dance floor glowed with white lights, while displays of kitsch from different decades (including eight track tape players and tools from the 1940s) dotted the area.  And life-size cutouts of pop icons from different eras roundedout the décor, with Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Betty Boop, ElvisPresley, and Zach Efron peppering the dance floor.

The food offerings were also keyed to different decades. Who knew that Buffalo Wings appeared in the 1960s and that Eskimo Pies arrived in the 1930s? 

Then came the dancing, as students, faculty members, and some faculty children, jammed the courtyard. Music offerings ranged from the Charleston from the 1920s to modern classics like YMCA, Shout!, Respect, and even Escape by Emilio Iglesias, a favorite of Joe Tobin ’09.  At the end of the evening, a king and queen were crowned for each decade, beginning with Jackson Howard '12 and Alice Hyde '12 in their buttoned-down finery of the '00s to Joe Tobin '09 and Kelsey Jonker '09, who swept the future with their “Somali pirates of the future” garb. (Apparently, life jackets will become a must-have accessory.)

Several students captured the essence of the evening. “It was the funky dancing,” said Bea Taylor ’12. Others seconded Bea's observation, giving special accolades to the smooth moves of faculty members Bill Omansiek and Heather Grant (grooving out in 1910s garb), Sabina McMahon (sporting elbow length white gloves and a hat circa 1900), and Jeff and Kara Hooper (representing the gaudy pageantry of the 1970s). Hailey Everett ’12 noted that she liked “the food variety" and the “different music from our typical dances.” 

Brianna Bohnett ’11 summed it up with this: “I love that UnProm is so wacky—the crazy outfits that most everyone gets into, the snacks, the music, faculty and students dancing and smiling—it all makes for a superb night out on the Library Courtyard.”

Photo credits: Lee Farese, Javier Quiroz, Jesse Gonzales, Kara Hooper, April Word

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