The Varsity Show: A Columbia Tradition

Zuleika program cover

Initially conceived as a fundraiser for the University's athletics teams, The Varsity Show has grown into Columbia University's oldest performing arts tradition. It is an annual extravaganza that has launched many students on their paths to careers in the arts and elicited cheers and blushes from those in the Columbia community who find themselves subject of its satire.

This online exhibition is an expansion of a physical exhibit created in 2004 to mark the 110th anniversary of The Varsity Show.

For more information about The Varsity Show please consult
The Varsity Show Collection finding aid.

Or take a look at the publication The Varsity Show: A Celebration housed in the University Archives publications collection (call #CP2 V43).

Exhibit Curator

Jocelyn Wilk


The Varsity Show has a long and interesting history, spanning more than 100 years.

Pony Ballet

The Varsity Show’s most enduring trademark was the “men only” rule, made famous by the “Pony Ballet” of college men (often football players) dressed as dancing girls.

Famous Alumni

The distinguished roster of Columbians who have participated in The Varsity Show includes a who’s who of show business talent and achievement. Among the more noteable alums are Oscar Hammerstein (CC 1916), Richard Rodgers (CC 1923), Lorenz Hart (CC 1918), I.A.L. Diamond (CC 1941), Herman Wouk (CC 1934), Terrance McNally (CC 1960), and Ed Kelban (CC 1960) who wrote the lyrics for A Chorus Line.


Even Columbia's famous fight song has its origins in The Varsity Show.


See how The Varsity Show programs and posters have evolved over the years.


Columbia University Libraries / University Archives / Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-3786 /