From the Varsity Show to Red, White & Royal Blue

Ted Malawer + Toby

Malawer with his dachshund, Toby.

Ted Malawer ’06 is a playwright and screenwriter from Long Island. His first film, an adaptation of the New York Times bestselling novel Red, White & Royal Blue, premieres today on Amazon Prime. He has published five novels for young adults with Penguin Random House, written for television shows including Halston and American Rust, and co-wrote the musical Only Gold, which premiered at MCC Theater and earned Outer Critics Circle and Off-Broadway Alliance nominations for Outstanding Musical. Malawer is also a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied in both the Vocal Arts and Playwriting programs.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I was definitely thinner and my hair was longer. Or maybe not longer, but there was more of it. I had never been above 72nd Street. I do know at some point in high school I wore JNCO jeans but I think I got rid of them before Orientation. At least I hope I did.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I remember lots of cinderblocks in Carman, and I had a great roommate (hi, Bill!). My best friend from high school — who is still my best friend — was a freshman at Barnard, and during Orientation she and her roommate came across a drunk kid on the steps of the Natural History Museum. The museum wouldn’t let him in so my friend brought him out with her for the night. At some point, she lost him. The next day, we sat in Café 212 (RIP) and tried to figure out who he was using the earliest version of Facebook — an actual, physical book with students’ names and photos. We discovered that he not only lived in my dorm, but also on my floor. We all became dear, close friends — and still are! I won’t reveal his name so as not to shame him publicly but he does now have two children.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

I had a wonderful professor for Lit Hum: Nancy Workman GSAS’98. I remember her class vividly. I am a proud Clefhanger and Varsity Show alum; I will never forget being tasked with a chair on wheels for one of our big numbers and having to drag it to and from rehearsal for months. Junior year, I directed a version of Rocky Horror that was fantastic and moved downtown to Club El Flamingo, home of The Donkey Show. But what I remember most is starting a musical improv troupe called The Tea Party in my senior year with several friends. (This was before there was an actual Tea Party political movement, FYI.) There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

When I think of my time at the College, I often think of Butler Library and many makeshift rehearsal rooms. My favorite image is when the trees on College Walk are lit up for the holidays; it makes the entire campus feel like magic. I also have fond memories of the cafeteria in the basement of McIntosh on the Barnard campus (which I now believe has a different name), where I was treated like a celebrity and had the best chicken caesar wraps of my life.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

Not to get too sentimental, but I feel lucky to have so many great memories from Columbia. Most of the important people in my life are friends I met as an undergrad. So I wouldn’t do over all that much … except maybe sleep through fewer morning classes and score better on my astronomy final. IT STILL HAUNTS ME!