Law school theater group uses humor for charity

Alice in Wonderland scene, parodying chars from the book. Left to right Fernando Valle as the Dodo, Patrick Rostock as the Dean of Hearts, Zach Ludens as the Dodo, Benjamin Muschel as the Mad Hatter, Nejla Calvo as Alice, Trinity Jordan as the Cheshire Cat, Rafael Yaniz as Gandalf (cross character), Abe Rubert Schewel as the Knave of Hearts. Each person's character simultaneously parodied a law professor. Photo Courtesy of Amir Whitaker

Hilarity for Charity’s (HFC) collegiate program HFC U ranked UM’s School of Law Equity Playhouse No. 7 in the “Elite Eight” list of student organizations and college campuses that raised the most funds in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The law school’s Equity Playhouse is a student-run theater group.

HFC is part of the national Alzheimer’s Association and raises money to provide resources for research and for families struggling with Alzheimer’s care. The charity is led by actor Seth Rogen and wife Lauren Miller, and uses humor to raise awareness about the disease.

Equity Playhouse produces shows that make light of law school and legal events. The organization’s annual show donates all proceeds from ticket sales to a charity selected by students.

In March, the playhouse premiered “1L in Wonderland,” a spoof on “Alice in Wonderland” and other stories like the “Wizard of Oz,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Harry Potter.” The show followed Alice, a first-year law student, who enters a fantasy land and learns about law school, encountering professor parodies along the journey.

When Director and Lead Song Parody Writer Alyssa Williams was considering which charities to support with the cast, Matthew Deblinger, a first-year law student, suggested Hilarity for Charity. Deblinger saw firsthand the effects of Alzheimer’s when his grandfather developed the disease.

“Hilarity for Charity felt like a perfect fit for our model because it used comedy as a vehicle to tackle a serious cause, Alzheimer’s disease,” Deblinger said. “Alzheimer’s certainly impairs memory, but no one ever forgets how to laugh.”

After discussing the idea with Williams, the decision was made to select it as a benefiting charity.

“I had just seen Seth Rogen’s testimony before Congress and thought it was a great idea,” Williams said. “I invited Matt to come speak to the cast, and as many of us have relatives or know people with Alzheimer’s, we ultimately selected it as one of our charities this year.”

Together, the universities that participated with HFC in raising money in fight of Alzheiemer’s have raised a total of $127,000 in the last semester.

“That’s incredible, and it shows what our proactive generation is capable of,” Deblinger said. “I’m humbled that Miami Law made it to the ‘Elite Eight’ because I believe that it’s a testament to our munificence. This contest was never about winning; it was about raising money for such an emotionally draining disease.”

Williams was also excited about Equity Playhouse’s recognition by HFC as an “Elite Eight,” but what she finds most rewarding is the opportunity to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s to college students.

“…The cast of Equity and I really just focused on trying to raise money for the charity through ticket sales and word-of-mouth,” Williams said. “It’s great to hear that we are acknowledged for our efforts, but the awareness on campus and the support of Alzheimer’s research and families was our goal.”