The EVVYS exists for the check, not for student appreciation.


Illustration by Rachel Choi

By Jackson Bailey, Staff Writer, Living Arts

I was very excited to become a writer for the 42nd Evvy Awards, Emerson’s student award ceremony. At the beginning of last semester, I joined a team of other students in a fun and happy writer’s room with a diverse group of students, from comedic arts majors, VMAs, and WLPs who have experience and/or interest in sketch and performance based writing. We met a few times a month to write material ordered by our executive producer, and our team would hammer out promotional material, written award introductions, and a larger narrative show. I spent my weekends and breaks chatting with writers and building a cohesive and fun showcase.

About a month ago, I found out from my head writers that our team would not be getting seats for the EVVYS Gala event, a show we’d spent the past few months constructing. Weeks later, I found out that our group would not be getting seats for the main event either, the awards ceremony in the Cutler Majestic Theatre on May 12. That is, we weren’t getting seats unless each person dropped 25 dollars. 

When asked about the decision to exclude the writers from comped seats, EVVYS advisor Diana Barton stated the following in an email sent to a few executive producers and writers: “This year, if we have room we’ll give you seats. With that said, this will probably be the last year that this is done.” Why? “Because in the professional world, the writers, producers, and any other staff/crew on a show never sit in the audience to watch their show because they are working backstage or in the control room.”

“She wrote that email as if we’re going to sell out,” began one disgruntled member of the EVVYS content department, who chose to remain anonymous. “We’re not. We’re not going to fill the theater for this event.”

The Cutler Majestic Theatre seats approximately 1200 people. Despite this, we still didn’t get seats. 

 As writers, we were frustrated. We’d donated our time and efforts to be rewarded with little more than condescension. I felt we’d written for an event that removed us when it deemed it could make a quick buck.

Our next few writing meetings were a bit hostile, but we weren’t the only folks unhappy with the EVVYS. A friend of mine was cut from performing at the Gala only a few days before the show. After months of preparation, he had the rug pulled out from under him. Plenty of other unpaid production staffers dealt with tight deadlines and bureaucratic meetings. Everyone seemed to have a story involving the EVVYS’ Kafkaesque mismanagement.

“I’ve heard a joke from a few students who’ve worked on the EVVYS in the past that you work on it once to get the experience, and then you never do it again,” said Katie Culloden ‘24, co-head writer of the EVVYS before chuckling at their own annoyance. 

There’s also been quite a bit of controversy on the topic of fundraising. The EVVYS asks for student donations, ticket payments, and submission fees, while also keeping an eye out for corporate donations. This year, the award show took two tubs of ice cream from JP Licks, beverages from Red Bull, and 200 cookies from Chick-Fil-A. 

“I found out about Chick-Fil-A less than a week ago. In that meeting we mostly played it off as a bit. I can find humor in that in a dark way,” began Owen Asch ‘25, co-head writer for this year’s EVVYS.

“But it’s horrible that we as a school that really touts itself as very LGBT friendly and really accepting of marginalized identities would take anything from a very homophobic company,” Asch continued. “On a human level, Chick-Fil-A doesn’t care about the students we have here. So that was a blow to the chest for me, being like, I am working on something [funded by] Chick-Fil-A money. It feels really shitty.” 

It is not public knowledge how involved Chick-Fil-A is in this year’s EVVYS. We don’t know if they wrote Emerson College a big check or merely supplied a few chocolate chip cookies for the Gala. What we do know is that any connection between a notably anti-LGBTQ+ corporation and Emerson College is something that students won’t—and didn’t—take lightly. 

“You could just pin that on the Student Sales and Sponsorship Coordinator, but obviously their work is advised,” Culloden said. “I was talking to a writer, and they’re considering not having their name on this project. They’re gay, and they just don’t feel comfortable.”

“The EVVYs is a departmental organization led by students and their advisor, SEAL does not oversee this organization, including the approval of an advisor,” Jennifer Nival, the SEAL director of student engagement and leadership, said in an emailed statement to the Beacon after the original publication of this article.

In our most recent writer’s meeting, we cracked endless jokes at the expense of the college. Beneath these quips was a sad truth: most of us submit to the EVVYS. Myself and a few members of our team submitted pieces to the EVVYS. A few of us were even nominated. Those who were nominated believed this was a cause for celebration. 

But now, the award is tarnished. As frustrations over the EVVYS continue to pile up, I hear more and more nominees speak against the EVVYS. There were plenty of noticeable absences from the Gala, with more than a few nominees choosing not to be present for the award show. I can only assume that the Chick-fil-A association and the ticket prices have led to students opting out.

While I want to believe that Emerson College is making an effort to push forward an agenda of inclusion in this year’s celebration of student work, I can’t shake the feeling that this award show is not some exploration of the “professional world,” but rather an excuse for the college to do what it loves: make a profit. 

For the EVVYS, that means turning a normal student celebration and awards show into a chance to shake down artists for a few more dollars. I’ve come to the conclusion that this award show is nothing more than a well dressed, collegiate play for money. 

And what’s worse is that it works. As someone who has submitted my own work to the EVVYS, I understand the desire for an award, for recognition from your peers.. This all works and has worked because we are naive. The EVVYS fundraising works because we are artists, and it works because we’d love to dress up for a show about us; to live the dream of an award show nominee. The EVVYS will keep functioning as the “largest student award show in the nation” for this reason. Hell, my acknowledgement-seeking-self may submit this very article for an EVVY next year, five dollar payment and all. 

I hope you enjoyed this year’s show.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly assumed Chick-Fil-A was a sponsor of the EVVYs. The corporation did not sponsor the show, but instead made a one-time catering donation. An earlier version of this article also incorrectly stated that the EVVYs’ sponsorships and donations were approved by SEAL. While the EVVYs are an Emerson-affiliated organization, SEAL does not oversee this organization in any capacity.