Freshman Follies: Exploiting embarrassment

Behind the scenes with Muhlenberg’s all-female comedy group Damsels in Excess

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Last Thursday night in the Event Space, Damsels In Excess completed their goal to “exploit embarrassment, profit from pain and commemorate the cringe of being a NOOB in College, High School, Middle School, Life,” in their first show of the semester, “Freshmen Follies.”

Damsels in Excess is Muhlenberg’s one and only all-female short-form improv comedy group, which was founded in 2012. During each year, Damsels performs two shows in the fall and spring semesters as well as partaking in a joint show with the performance ensemble Fun with Science in the spring.

Current members include: Emma Rosenthal ’18 (Co-President), Rebecca MacKillop ‘18 (Co-President), Asherde Gill ‘20 (Vice President), Hannah Schmitt ’20 (Social Chair), Julia Tyson ’18 (Morale Chair), Carrie Dickson ‘18, Jessie Kuehne ‘21, Elizabeth Templeman ‘20 and Ana Tolvo ’21.

Damsels have a specific audition process for selecting new members, which occurs once each semester. During auditions, people play some improv games with the current members as well as pitch sketch ideas.

They then have a callback process that consists of playing some more improv games, asking people to read a side from a previous Damsels sketch and submitting an original fully written sketch.

“I get inspiration from things that happen to me, jokes that come up in conversations, interesting scenarios I imagine,” said Schmitt.“I have a running list on my phone of sketch ideas and I know a lot of the other girls keep lists somehow. It’s a different process for everyone.”

Regardless of whether or not they have an upcoming show, Damsels have rehearsals twice a week, one hour on Tuesdays and two hours on Sundays, and if they feel unprepared before a show, they find the time to rehearse for another hour or two.

Social Chair Schmitt explains that during a rehearsal, the group either does sketch comedy, improv or both. They start with improv as a warmup ,and if they are doing sketches, they will either have a pitch circle where they sit together, pitch sketch ideas and help each other expand and clarify their sketch concepts. On other sketch days, they will read through and workshop already written sketches that members have sent to the group. For improv rehearsals, they play a few games and practice different forms that they often use in shows.

“Scripts originate from sketch ideas that members pitch. Usually we will all talk through the pitch and develop it together. We will then workshop sketches in rehearsal,” said Schmitt. “Also, many girls will just post new sketch scripts and ask for feedback in the Facebook group. Every now and again we will write in groups or teams.”

For each show, they try to alternate between sketch and improv, sometimes even mixing in A/V.

“We end every show with ‘Our Form,’ which is an improv form unique to us – it is a mash up of a few different pre-existing forms,” said Schmitt.

The amount of improv versus sketch comedy depends on how many sketches have been written and are ready. Damsels try to have a “loose theme” for their shows that can be incorporated into sketches. They usually present two to four improv forms/games per show. For casting sketches, they try to keep track to make sure that casting is dispersed as equally as possible.

“I’d say my favorite memories come from filming the video sketches. They’re so much fun and we get to just goof around with each other while enjoying a great final product,” said co-president Rosenthal.

“Freshmen Follies” started off with a pre-recorded video about how the Damsels are back together. Many of the scenes had to do with the problems of being a freshmen, such as being “sexiled” from your dorm. A scene that bookended the freshmen scenes together was a member playing an “O-Group” leader as well as members playing freshmen during orientation. Other scenes featured the Seven Dwarfs’ secret polygamous relationship, cooking and an intervention about pooping dogs. The show ended with Art Form improv.

Follow Damsels In Excess’ Facebook page to find out about upcoming performances that will make you laugh!

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