Flying Treehouse celebrates 10-year anniversary with childish delight

Nov. 28, 2022, 3:14 p.m.

On the chilly evening of Nov. 17, I was surrounded with the warmth of Flying Treehouse’s sketch comedy “Throwback Show”: A world where cupcakes can become cookies, pizza can be vengeful and annoying oranges can find other annoying friends. I found myself laughing at bright-colored sets, crazy wigs, humorous tales and a fantasy reality created by second graders, celebrating the group’s 10-year anniversary.

Flying Treehouse is an ensemble of actor-educators who teach creative writing to second graders at local elementary schools, including Oak Knoll Elementary, Escondido and EPACS. They then edit the stories written by the students and perform them for the kids and the Stanford student body. Featuring a sketch from every year of its existence, Thursday’s show displayed pieces from 2011 to the present. 

Flying Treehouse began in 2011 as a class, DRAMA 190, pioneered by Dan Klein ’91 and Lisa Barker Ph.D. ’12. In 2012, DRAMA 190 transitioned from a Theater & Performance Studies class to a club. 

Children had the most control over what happened on stage during Thursday’s show, while Stanford students were vessels of their imaginations. Yet that is what made the performance liberating: knowing that the stories were imperfect and innocent allowed the audience to not take anything too seriously and laugh freely. 

There was truly no better way to celebrate the “birth” of Flying Treehouse than with “Shuubala,” the opening act that humorously chronicled the tale of a man who becomes a striped fish after eating a kingfish, only to give birth to another kingfish. Complete with excessive arm flailing and harmonious chorus music, this act was one to remember. It had it all: birth, death and everything in between.

“Oh cookie, cookie, wherefore art thou cookie?” began Cupcake (Willy Chan ’26) in the second act, as he searched desperately for his love, Cookie (Zach Lo ’23). The crowd erupted in laughter as Cookie sweetly replied, “Do you want to taste my cookie?” Chan took a bite and was immediately mesmerized, leaving to tell his dad that he was officially a cookie now. “It’s not a phase,” he emphasized. Clever additions of young adult humor catered to the young adult audience and allowed the show to be amusing even for college-age students.

Another clear highlight of the show was a segment called “Shorts,” a rapid-fire round of short, word-for-word stories. The raw childishness, blunt endings and unexpected plot twists led this segment to be an audience favorite. 

“We spent three weeks going through all the archives of hundreds of stories that have been performed throughout the years,” the director Flora Troy ’23 said, reflecting on the process of preparing for the show. 

Gesturing towards the many alumni in the crowd, she mentioned that what made the show even more special was the alumni community Flying Treehouse built. “Everyone who’s been through Flying Treehouse has something special. They’re educators, storytellers and passionate people, and it’s really nice to see that that hasn’t changed,” Troy said.

The costumes and props, all designed by the members of the Flying Treehouse, were bright, colorful and playful, echoing the childish humor that the show highlights. Many acts emphasized the concept of community and friendship: values that are an integral part of the organization. Sahithi Pingali ’22, a senior who has been part of Flying Treehouse since freshman year, said that she had never known Stanford without it and that she would deeply miss the community it had given her after she graduates.

“I just want everyone to take home a little bit of joy,” said Troy. “Especially during Week 8, towards the end of the quarter, everybody’s a little bit weighed down and the show adds some childlike joy back into the world.”

From bloodthirsty rap battles to vengeful moldy pizza, the “Throwback Show” really had it all. Lighthearted, amusing and wholesome, the Flying Treehouse reunion show transported the audience into many magical realms and humorously brought out the inner child in all of us. 

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Shreya Komar is a writer for Arts & Life.

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