Above: Dr. Eelka Lampe introduces the 20th Annual Regis Oktoberfest. Now in her 22nd year on the faculty at Regis, Dr. Lampe began the fall tradition at Regis in 1995.
Another milestone was reached this Centennial year when Regis High School celebrated the 20th Annual Oktoberfest on October 29th. The multi-lingual German cabaret tradition began in the fall of 1995 by longtime Regis German teacher, Dr. Eelka Lampe.
"The event blends two quite distinct German traditions. It's about more than just a German-themed bratwurst reception," said Dr. Lampe. "From its inception, we’ve sought to provide a fun cultural and educational experience for all."
According to Dr. Lampe, the performance component of the annual event has a fun educational element to it. She notes that students find the century-old strong satirical tradition of Kabarett—or German Cabaret—to be the perfect vehicle for testing their growing German skills in a semi-public, yet supportive environment.
"While it began humbly with swiftly taught sing-and-move-along opportunities for the audience in the Bavarian tradition, and an irreverent staging of Goethe's poem Erlkönig, the show evolved quickly to presenting songs by the infamous Comedian Harmonists of Germany of the 1920's and 30's, and even began featuring Grimm’s fairy tales as rich material for political satire," said Dr. Lampe.
"Students who would never audition for the Regis Rep go out on a limb for the greater cause of the show. There is very little ego involved and although the production value has risen over time with more technology available, it is still a grass-roots event with no program or credits," said Dr. Lampe.
Over the years, faculty involvement has become a staple of the event. In the early days, Mr. Connelly graciously volunteered spontaneously to mime "the broken radio" in the Freshmen's "Das Auto ist kaputt," and then in later years, rendered poetry on stage, as did English teacher Mr. Vode, former President Fr. McClain, S.J., School Psychologist, Dr. Nofi, and Dr. Lampe. Mr. Jackson, a now retired Latin teacher, once read intellectual commentaries in German on Wagner's music while the Seniors enacted outrageous tableaus from his operas.
American pop culture and TV have also found their way into some shows. Gangnam style dancing, "Friday", and "Call Me Maybe" have been featured in German. Game shows like The Weakest Link, Survivor, The Amazing Race have also been spoofed. "A Mr. America contest once featured Elvis, Henry Kissinger, and Charlie Brown, all with German heritage," reflected Dr. Lampe.
The late Fr. Ken Caufield, S.J., who became a fan of the event, once quipped to Dr. Lampe that the Regis Oktoberfest Cabaret is "carnevalesque—anything goes!" Now with over 70 students involved annually, which is approximately double the number from the 10th Anniversary production, there is certainly a lot of room for creativity. Dr. Lampe tells her students every year before the show begins: "When you are up there in front of the audience, there is no right or wrong, there are only creative choices!"
In recent years, The Parents' Club has become a major help in organizing and executing the Bratwurst Feast following the show. Schaller & Weber, which dates back to the old Yorkville, has provided the real German bratwurst with authentic potato salad and sauerkraut since 1995. There have always been faculty Grill Masters, most notably Mr. Barona, Mr. Amatrucola, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Eickman. They volunteer alongside parents who provide the lion’s share of labor at the annual reception.
With Student Government and school funding, entrance to the Cabaret remains free. The Bratwurst Feast collects $1 per attendee to support a charity each year. In the past, collections have gone to City Harvest, relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and—for a number of years now—to support the Kibera Project, our Jesuit partner school for AIDS orphans in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
"It's a great tradition, and it's wonderful that we are able to celebrate the 20th anniversary in this year of Centennial celebrations," remarked Dr. Lampe. "I hope students—past and present—have been able to appreciate the cultural experience alongside a healthy dose of high school cabaret entertainment."