Sketchy Bids Farewell to Head of School John Palfrey with Satirical Music Theater

Jenni Lawson ’19 (pictured above) holds a squash racquet during her parody of and tribute to Head of School John Palfrey.

Standing on a black box, Jenni Lawson ’19, wearing a black suit and fluffy brown wig, struck a pose as a flourish of trumpets punctuated the silence. Head of School John Palfrey watched in the front row as Lawson impersonated him and parodied his speeches from All-School Meetings.

According to Rachna Lewis ’19, Co-Head of Sketchy, the purpose of the sketch was not only to humor the audience, but also to commemorate Palfrey’s time at Andover. The cast of Sketchy, however, was not aware that Palfrey would be in the audience until the day before.

“We definitely wanted to hammer home that we’re going to miss him. That’s what the entire end of the show was supposed to be about, celebrating him having been at Andover and served us so well as our Head of School. It was a pretty honorary skit, and we didn’t even know that he was going to show up until maybe a day ago. It was really exciting for us,” said Lewis.

After watching the show, Palfrey posted a photo of Lawson’s performance on his personal Instagram account.

“It was amazing, very funny, one of the best things I’ve ever seen at Andover, and very touching. It brought tears to my eyes,” said Palfrey.

Lawson originally suggested the sketch as a joke during a club meeting, but eventually went on to create, direct and perform in the musical theater parody about Palfrey.

“I loved performing it, but creating it was so much fun because I’ve always been a very big music person and I really love musical theater. This was the first real musical parody thing that I’ve ever formally written and performed, so being able to share that with people was awesome, and being able to really develop it this whole week and take it to different places, play with the music itself and the lyrics,” said Lawson.

Lawson’s sketch was the highlight of the event, according to audience members Kiran Ramratnam ’22 and Ioanna Ninos ’21.

“I have to admit that the Palfrey finale was my favorite part of it. It was rather unexpected and I really like how Sketchy made an effort to make the comedy relatable for the students. I feel like it brings the Andover culture together, strengthens that community aspect that they mentioned at the beginning of the show. It was pretty funny too, especially since Palfrey was sitting in front of me,” said Ninos.

Ramratnam said, “My favorite part was when Jenni was Mr. Palfrey. That was absolutely on point, incredible, and how Mr. Palfrey took it. Jenni’s so talented and the whole thing with the tap-dancing and making fun of ASM, that was just incredible and so thoughtful.”

Another sketch performed during the show featured Loulou Sloss ’22 and Mac Katkavich ’21, dressed in neon windbreakers and tight workout gear. They did an intense jazz exercise routine, waving their arms and yelling excitedly as they danced to the song they were singing. Behind Sloss and Katkavich, Emily Jackson ’19 and Elizabeth Chou ’22 frantically attempted to copy the moves.

“[The sketch] was really fun and inventive, and it didn’t rely on huge pieces of text to make jokes. It was really physical, which was not what I was used to, and I really enjoyed it,” said Sloss.

The performance on Friday was only Sketchy’s second show of the year. According to Lewis, scheduling conflicts among group members prevented them from performing earlier in the year.

Lewis said, “Unfortunately, Winter Term, all of us happened to be very busy, so we decided we’d get a head start this term and have two shows. We had a full house to the point where did they had to kick some people out, which I felt really bad about. We’ve never had that many people at our show before, so it was really exciting.”