Can Tavern Night Turn the Trend for Themed Green Keys?

Tavern Night bartender Olivia Thomas ’22 poses with fencing blades

You pass through the door into the dimly-lit Green Key. Bedecked with fairy lights, plants, and colorful fabrics, the hang-out transforms into a world from another century, filled with fantastical figures: a chainmail-clad knight, a pointy-eared elf, a suspicious pirate. Two figures receive improv cues from a rapt audience, and a faint, musical strumming echoes through the space.

This past Saturday night from 7-10 pm, Western Reserve Academy’s Green Key transformed into a fantasy tavern for the aptly named Tavern Night. Hosted by the D20 club, the evening served as an immersive fantasy experience open to all.

As attendance at Green Key events seems to be steadily decreasing, this unprecedented event drew a large crowd, despite boasting a supposedly niche appeal. Tavern Night presents a more interactive form of Green Keys, but it also serves as a template for rousing increasingly elusive school spirit. 

“I think I was expecting Dungeons and Dragons,” senior Renee Oh explained when asked about her expectations for the event. “I thought it would be like a game [but] I really like the mood and the food.”

Norah Woods ’22 echoes Oh’s statement, adding that she was “not [expecting] something well decorated…This is pretty intense in a good way.”

The event preserved the Green Key’s hang-out reputation while offering a variety of activities, including fortune reading, dances, card games and live music, among others. Students were encouraged to attend in character, but the tavern welcomed all people.

“I just woke up from my nap about 20 minutes ago, and I feel like I’m still dreaming,” Laila Hensley-Edelman ’22 reported. Non-D20 members remarked on the novelty and enthusiasm of the event throughout, referencing the plentiful decorations, music and food.

“The Green Key finally has good music,” Ethan Bauck ’22 opined. 

D20 member Samantha Kolencik ’23 described baking most of the desserts: “I knew it was going to be a lot of work, so I got a lot of friends together. We baked the whole night; it was really magical [and] in the spirit of Tavern Night!”

Since before spring break, the planning committee was headed by seniors Mykal Sims-Bailey, Isabella Folio and Broden Windsor, but other club members contributed, such as Ryan Sheffield ’25 who created his own knight costume.

“It sounded cool and I like making armor, so there I am,” Sheffield explained. “The Helmet is the hardest part… It’s made out of EVA film which I cut and glued together.”

Non-club members also participated, such as bartender Olivia Thomas ’22.

“It’s almost like acting. You have this part and have to keep playing in character. I think people really appreciate what we’re doing,” Thomas explained as she handed out root beer in themed chalices. 

Students filtered through the doors to have their fortune’s read and witness a skit in which an unruly patron was restrained for rude behavior. People grabbed photo ops in the unique aesthetic, often remarking on the unique atmosphere that set this event apart.

“It’s been really fun interacting with people and seeing them enjoying what’s going on. This [type of event] hasn’t happened to me at [WRA] yet,” Rene Crocram ’22 explained. 

Sims-Bailey reflected on the positive response, adding, “I was pleasantly surprised… I’m even happier than people seemed genuinely interested because it’s always fun to see people enjoying the same things you enjoy.”

Josie Flauto ’22 sits at a candle-lit table during Tavern Night

Isabella Folio ’22

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