Katie Lee K’16 holds a baby out to Rachel Dranoff K’16, who bounces it from hand to hand.
“Set it!,” someone calls as they play volleyball with the infant.
“No, no, no!” Dranoff shouts while the baby gets tossed to Cameron Schneberger K’16, who loses it to Quincy Crosby K’17.
The baby falls with a crash as the four stand in shock for a moment, staring at it facedown on the floor. They are in the Playhouse Theatre rehearsing for their sketch comedy performance which will take place at the end of the week as part of the Senior Performance Series and Lee’s Senior Individualized Project.
“What if someone else drops their phone right after?” Schneberger asks.
“That’s really funny!” Dranoff responds.
The four of them have been working on the sketch performance three times a week throughout winter quarter. During rehearsals, they “have an idea, improvise it, see if it works, do it over and over again, then write as an ensemble,” according to Lee, who has been conducting her SIP in the Theater Department with advisor Dr. Ed Menta.
“We’re all writing this together,” Lee said about working with her ensemble. “I have the job of writing, directing, acting, and designing.”
Lee met Crosby in the television production class during which they wrote a few sketches together.
“We vibed really well,” Lee said. “I thought he would be a great addition to my group.”
She added that Schneberger was extremely interested in the process and sought her out. Although she had seen how well he performed in Monkapult, she wanted to see what he could do on the written page.
Dranoff, a Monkapult captain, did a program through Columbia College Chicago with Second City the summer after Lee did the same program.
“I wanted to see what she had learned and see what we could do together,” Lee said. “I think she’s a great partner.”
Lee attended the same “comedy joke school” as Dranoff during fall quarter of her junior year after learning about the program from Jack Massion K’14, who was a Monkapult captain and also attended the school during his time at K.
“After I left I just realized that this was everything I wish I was doing here but couldn’t, so I needed to apply that to my SIP,” Lee said and added that she put a lot of time into learning the basics.
Her comedy sketch performance is inspired by the Second City process and looks to be satirical, commenting on life and analyzing it within their own comedy, but even more in the process of improvising together. She added that she wanted to create comedy that is for her generation, and that because Second City does a really good job with that, she wanted to mimic their process. Her goals are similar to that of Second City.
“I needed to bring this here. We don’t really meld the world of improvisation and the world of theater together here [at Kalamazoo College] even though they’re both in the Theatre Department and both under theatre,” Lee said. “I wanted to find that mesh and put something into the mix.”
The performance will be in the spirit of cabaret with an intimate setting. The ensemble will use few props, costumes, and set pieces so that the audience can focus on what the actors are doing and saying. Kate Ballew K’17 is sound designer while Sophie Higdon K’19 is stage manager.
“The best thing about this type of comedy is that we’re always writing it and we’re always writing it from a place of discovery,” Lee said, adding that the actors are always learning about themselves and their community. “Whether it’s a sketch about Vikings or a sketch about the sodomy law in Michigan being passed, they’re all related somehow and are important for this audience. It’s what this audience wants to see.”
She identified the audience for her performance as Kalamazoo College and her generation.
“I definitely think that we can talk about greater issues with comedy. I don’t think that now by me saying that that every issue can be solved with comedy… but if you are dealing with something personal that’s troubling, comedy is usually a great outlet to find an answer or solution or even just an outlet,” Lee said. “Comedy is hard and it’s not only hard because it’s difficult to make and difficult to find the comedy in things but it’s also hard because a lot of people want to push up against comedy. They don’t want to accept it fully or they want it to be … wrapped up in a bow and perfect for them, but they’re not willing to just listen to what they’re saying.”
After graduation, Lee hopes to learn more about comedy. She plans to move to Chicago and participate in Second City’s observatory program where she will spend more time working with an ensemble.
“Comedy is all about the human existence and how we all relate to one another,” Lee said. “Comedy is about the truth of the human existence, so if that’s the case, we should be able to find some sort of comfort within it.”
The performance will take place Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5, at 10 p.m. in the Dungeon Theater. It is free for K students and $5 for others.