INBLACK, St. Olaf’s favorite student-produced sketch comedy group, performed seven shows over the course of three days this past weekend, running from Wednesday, April 26 through Friday, April 29. Continue reading “INBLACK shortens sold-out run to support student protest”
On April 29, a black St. Olaf student found a note on the windshield of their car parked outside Skoglund Center that read “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. Continue reading “Students fill Buntrock Commons to protest racism at St. Olaf”
As INBLACK enters its fifteenth year at St. Olaf, members of the theater group look to tackle some of the major issues on and off campus using humor, shock, satire and sincerity. The student-organized production stages a sketch show during a two-month long process. The first steps of this undertaking were recently completed, as the returning members held auditions and selected the newest members for this year’s show.
Elana Abelson ’17, Grace Brandt ’17 and Sam McIntosh ’19 led the auditions as INBLACK’s returning members. This year’s production will be the second for Abelson and McIntosh and the fourth for Brandt. The group is open to any student, and once they are accepted, they are a member for the remainder of their St. Olaf career.
Over 20 students tried out for the five open INBLACK spots between Feb. 13 to 17, with one round of callbacks before the final decisions were made. Ultimately, the group added Christian Conway ’18, Laird Vlaming ’17, Sarah Willstein ’19, Willem Mudde ’18 and Lindsey Bertsch ’19 to its ranks.
One unique aspect of this theater production is that none of the members actually major in theater. In fact, they each have their own separate interests.
“I think this group brings a lot of different perspectives and backgrounds. Based on our meeting the other day, it seems like people have ideas they are really excited about. I love that our cast is composed of musicians, visual artists, improvisers, creative writers,” Abelson said.
The next step for the eight students involves writing sketches, which they will then produce, direct and perform for a series of nine shows between April 26 and 29. Until then, the students will work together, with little to no outside assistance or instruction, to put all the pieces together.
“My first time seeing INBLACK I was amazed at my fellow students’ abilities to perform sketches that ranged from outrageously hilarious to emotionally impactful … I’m really looking forward to the first show when everyone’s hard work will come to fruition,” Vlaming said.
While INBLACK has traditionally been staged in Haugen Theater, it moved last year to the Art Barn. This change presented challenges in lighting and seating configurations, but the actors expect this year to be a smoother setup now that they are accustomed to the new space. The show itself looks completely different year-to-year and even night-to-night, as the audience members get to randomly choose the order in which the skits are performed.
“I think the structure of the show is so emotionally effective. For those of us involved it is an unreal adrenaline rush, running around and never knowing what’s coming next. I love how the random nature and the audience involvement keeps us on our toes even when we’re working with material we wrote and staged and have been working with for months,” Brandt said.
Although late April may sound like a long way away, students are already getting excited for INBLACK’s promise to deliver refreshing, unflinching commentary on St. Olaf and world issues. The hype is all too real for the cast members as they dive into planning.
“We strive to be honest, reflective, outrageous. We shine a light on campus life, both the positive and negative aspects. I want the audience to be able to extract some truth from our show, some sense that we’re listening. And also, of course, I want them to laugh,” Abelson said.
Everyone knows that April showers bring May flowers. But here at Olaf, January gray days bring spring semester plays. Theater blossoms in spring on The Hill just as plentifully as flowers, and this spring is no exception. In fact, the selection of theatrical delights seems to grow continually as the weeks pass, and the menu contains something for everyone. Comedy, tragedy, really weird stuff that makes you feel cosmically unimportant – it’s all here. If I may, I’ll show you the specials.
1. Banana Sunday (“Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Rockaby”)
Who says you can’t start the meal with dessert? For the St. Olaf Theater Department’s spring show in Haugen Theater, Joanna McLarnan ’17 is directing two one-act plays by Samuel Beckett: “Krapp’s Last Tape” and “Rockaby,” and Beckett is quite a sugar rush. Expect bananas (no kidding, there will be bananas), ethereal visuals and provoking auditory experiences.
2. Nigiri Sushi (“Fresh Faces”)
In case you have not yet seen any first years this academic year, this is your chance. “Fresh Faces” is the chance for musical theater-inclined first years to show St. Olaf just how skillfully they can simultaneously sing and dance. Directed by Dario Villalobos ’18 and Gabby Dominique ’17 through DeepEnd, it’s guaranteed to be an inspiring performance.
3. Cheesy Grits (“August: Osage County”)
If the springtime is a little too sunny and relationships are going a little too well, maybe we all need to be reminded of life’s hardships. “August: Osage County” tells the story of a fractured Oklahoma family forced back together over a family death. But don’t let the gravity of the premise push you away. This award-winning play written by Tracy Letts and directed by the latest addition to the theater department faculty, Professor Michelle Gibbs, is not one to miss.
4. Chicken and Waffles (Quade One Act Festival)
Just like this classic soul food, the one acts of the Quade One Act Festival might not seem to go together at first look, but upon first taste they meld beautifully. This festival is the culminating project of the Intermediate Directing class, and there will be 11 one-acts of all kinds over three nights.
5. Steak Tartar (InBlack)
The talented members of InBlack write and perform their own original sketches. If you haven’t heard of them, waste no time in getting a ticket and finding a seat. Prepare yourself for a night of comedy and rebellious fun.
6. Caprese Salad (“Romeo vs. Juliet”)
Myswyken Salad Theater Company, the one and the same that performed “A Very Potter Musical” last semester, will be presenting an adapted version of “Romeo and Juliet.” I’ve heard there will be a sports team and cheerleaders involved.
7. Ghost Pepper Chili (“Bitch of Living”)
Becca Thavis ’17 will be directing this cabaret-style show in conjunction with the Wellness Center, tackling those elements of life that bring us all down. Laughing and crying are on the docket for the night.
8. Soup in a Bread Bowl (DeepEnd)
The oldest student-run theater company on campus, DeepEnd, offers student directors opportunities to produce shows. Though the shows have not yet been picked for the semester, keep an eye open for audition and show posters.
9. Spaghetti and Meatballs (Muse Project)
Muse Project is the newest theater company on campus, and has already successfully produced “Twelfth Night” and “Lysistrata.” The company is committed to magnifying female and femme-presenting voices onstage and off. Word has it that they are producing Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” so get ready to delve into more scansion and gender politics.
The sketch show INBLACK has become something of a cultural land- mark here at St. Olaf. The night tickets go on sale, the line to buy them starts in front of the cafeteria and stretches to the Buntrock ballrooms half an hour before dinner even begins. This year was no different, with one show selling out within 14 minutes and all 1,000 tickets gone by the next day. It’s no wonder – INBLACK’s reputation is well-deserved, and 2016’s performances upheld this campus-wide anticipation.
This year’s cast featured Allison Lonigro ’16, Brandyn Liebe ’16, Sam McIntosh ’19, Lars Midthun ’16, Grace Brandt ’17, Elana Abelson ’17, Stuart Gordon ’18 and Bailey Williams ’16. Ten shows from Wednesday, April 20 to Saturday, April 23 took place in the Flaten Art Barn, each one packed.
The format of an INBLACK show is quite simple: the performers created 28 sketches, and as audience members enter they receive what looks like a Bingo card with INBLACK written across the top with four rows of text in red, blue, green and yellow underneath. A matching screen is on display behind the perform- ers, and squares are removed once each sketch is performed. People can yell out
what sketch they want to see next (for example, “B yellow”), resulting in each night having a different order and flair. After a preshow playlist and video, all eight performers burst out from behind a sheet – wearing all black, down to the fingernails – to strobe lights and trap music and proceed to take suggestions. After approximately 75 minutes, the show ends and the screen is, as they say, in black.
The best thing about an INBLACK performance is that each individual sketch contains its own tone and form of humor. Some sketches elicited the kind of laughter that makes one’s stomach ache, such as “Seitan,” a ritual hailing of the savory meat substitute doused in red light and pentagrams. In others, the humor was much more pointed, like “Lady S.C.O.T.U.S.,” which imagined a nine-woman Supreme Court rendered unable to work due to such stereotypes as constant crying or being unable to drive. Certainly not to be forgotten were sketches that were not funny at all but thought-provoking and contemplative, asking why we pray for Paris and ignore hundreds of other terrorist attacks around the world or whether or not sexual assault is taken seriously on this campus.
Regardless of the subject matter or
how it was presented, each sketch drew on concepts and tropes with which the audience was familiar. Who can’t laugh at the image of Randy Clay as a trea- sure hunter looking for the St. Olaf endowment fund, or grin knowingly at a Wizard of Oz-style musical about Pause pizza, or understand the often overwhelming anxieties of being a St. Olaf student? INBLACK addressed all of these and more, resulting in laughter at all the right times and successful lam- poons of its targets.
“INBLACK, when it examined prob- lems within the St. Olaf community and beyond, refused to pull its punches. Whether done humorously or seriously, it spoke to me and, I’m sure, the rest of the audience,” Catherine Stookey ’18, who attended performances on both Thursday and Saturday, said.
Overall, INBLACK continued its streak of making packed houses laugh, cry and marvel at the sheer level of talent exhibited by the performers. The eight phenomenal actors, comedians, writers, singers and dancers created a show that will be talked about at St. Olaf for a long time.