Back in 2002, the Law School noticed that many of its students had dramatic, musical, comedic, and other creative skills and urges but no outlet for them. The Theatre of the Relatively Talentless (TORT) was created to fill those non-legal needs.
Students immediately set about writing, producing, and staging a full-scale satire of a Broadway musical set in a law-school context. For its first production, TORT chose to parody "The Wizard of Oz" with its creation, "The Wizard of Fritz." It was presented in February 2003 in a small Washington Avenue theater, the Open Book.
The "The Wizard of Fritz" included about 50 student performers. It followed Talia Kolluri-Barbick (’05) through three years of law school, relentless hounding by Wicked Witch of the West Bank Areti Georgopoulos (’05), and the companionship of Brainless Snowman Ben Rudolf (’05), Cowardly Gopher Nick Wallace (’05), and silverman Matt Helland (’05). "Friends in Both Dakotas," a rendition of Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" sung by Patrick Stura (’05), was an audience favorite.
Cajoling faculty and alumni to take part began with that first production. Professors Ann Burkhart and John Matheson, former Vice President Walter Mondale (’56), Justice Paul Anderson (’68), and Joan Ericksen (’81) were among those making cameo appearances. The show was deemed "a raging success" in the 2003 alumni magazine.
Since then word has spread—of the fun to be had and TORT's policy of accepting law students without regard to quartile, political preferences, bluebooking skill, or talent. On-stage and back-stage participation, walk-on involvement, and audience attendance have grown steadily, and productions are now staged at the historic Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the TORT hit parade. "Alawddin: The Tale of 1001 All-Nighters" was presented March 2-3, 2012, and included about 100 students in the cast, chorus, dance, orchestra, and technical crew. It told the story of Alawddin, a server at a local bar played by Sanjiv Laud (’12) who, one fateful happy hour, was smitten at first sight with the Dean’s daughter, Jasmine, played by Allison Boyle (’13). After breaking into the Law School’s attic, Alawddin was granted his wish (by a genie in a fish bowl) to become a law student and woo the beautiful Jasmine.
The audience followed Alawddin's journey through law school and the challenges presented by security guards and by Jafar, an evil 3L portrayed by David Szarzynski (’13). Threatened by Alawddin's love for Jasmine and his top-student status, and thereby his claim to the Dean's prestigious clerkship recommendation letter, Jafar turned Alawddin in for a fictitious honor code violation. But in the end, Prof. Brad Clary's (’75) crooning of "Law-hemian Rhapsody" led Alawddin to victory, in the clerkship recommendation and, more important, in his true love’s heart.