Mr. NDA Coming Soon

Maureen Schick, Advanced Journalism

Mr. NDA, widely known around school and the community as one of the most popular events of the year, started twenty years when English teacher Carolyn Brown joined the NDA staff.

Hired by Sr. Pat Clement, the school’s principal at the time, Brown was told that her first job as the new Student Government adviser was to make NDA students forget about Homecoming and embrace a new idea: Fall Festival Week. The week was created to discourage the antics associated with homecoming.

“Do anything you need to do to have a busy week of fun,” Sr. Pat told her new hire.  Thus, the first Fall Fest Week included events still happening at NDA today, such as powder puff football, a rock concert and Mr. NDA.

“I’ll never forget how exciting that first Mr. NDA was,” Brown explained. “We were swamped afterwards by an audience that wouldn’t go home.  You would’ve thought they’d witnessed a miracle.”

The show has only gotten more and more successful over the years. Eventually, because of its popularity, Mr. NDA was taken out of Fall Festival Week and was made an event of its own, a major production on a Saturday night.

“So much of our show is technical now,” said Brown.  “The other staff members who work on NDA–Mrs. Campbell, Frau Laaksonen and Sara VanGrunsven–are the talented, innovative advisers.  I’m the one making announcements, helping with the script, baking brownies and just hanging around.  They’re the ones who know all the music and come up with crazy ideas for contestants.  For example, Frau already has the stage decorations planned for this year, has talked with Jake Gerlikovsky about lights and is working on a video crew.  And I’m convinced Mrs. Campbell has a folder on her desktop of talent act ideas.  Mrs. VanGrunsven is also young and ‘with it,’ when it comes to ideas for performing.”

Practically every other high school in the area has visited the Mr. NDA show and then developed their own version of the idea.  A second semester event for area school winners is Mr. Titletown, a promotion of the Chamber of Commerce whose winner receives a $2500 college scholarship.

Brown believes “being Mr. NDA is probably the most sought-after title at school, comparable to–and possibly surpassing–being Student Body President.”

Not to be confused with a popularity or beauty contest, Mr. NDA is, according to Brown, an entertainment contest. The students vote for the boys they think are the most creative and entertaining.

All NDA junior and senior boys are put on the initial ballot that goes out to all students in the school. Every student gets a vote, and the Top Forty are then put on a second ballot. Finally, after a second round of voting, the Top 15 vote-getters become contestants in Mr. NDA. Freshman and sophomore girls are selected by a random drawing to be the contestants’ escorts during the tuxedo portion of the show.  Two senior girls are selected by an audition process to attend rehearsals, write the script and emcee the show.

After the voting and the infrastructure of the show is decided, the fun really begins as the boys work on their acts. Brown hinted that “many boys already know what they want to do if they get into the show.”  They prepare a memorable entrance sporting a tuxedo, three “beach scene” slides and a talent act.

Usually the contestants invite other students, and even staff members, to be in their talent acts and skits, and about one-third of the school ends up being involved in the show–from performing onstage, to working crew or tech, to organizing the reception that follows the show.  

“The really fun part is that no one leaks what so-and-so is doing, and the boys end up developing a camaraderie that’s comparable to a sports team,” said Brown.  “Every year we’re amazed by the contestants who help other contestants improve their acts.”

But why is this show such a big tradition at NDA?

“Because it is SO MUCH FUN,” the teacher contends. “The students and their families–we’ve always had a sold-out show–expect to laugh a lot as well as see and hear real talent.”

The amount of time the contestants, crew and tech put into the show is exhausting, and the acts they end up performing are talked about for years after the show has ended.

This year, to celebrate the show’s 20th Anniversary, a reception will be held at the 1951 Club the Friday night before Mr. NDA (December 4).

“The response so far has been very positive,” Brown said.