Arts & Culture

Out of Bounds performs comedy sketch show

10-student comedy sketch group parodies mundane aspects of University life

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Out of Bounds utilized multimedia, lighting design and original student writing to entertain audience in Macmillan 117.

Last Sunday night, Out of Bounds, a student-run comedy sketch group that lists “The Office” actor John Krasinski ’01 among its alums, brought laughter to Macmillan 117 with sketches and short comedic videos that parodied the banalities of University student life. The showcase consisted of a series of lively sketches that explored everything from the struggle of desk-sharing at the library to the anxiety of meeting a Tinder match in person.

After the lights dimmed, Out of Bounds first screened a short film that expressed their excitement for the show in a humorous manner. With amateur cinematography and sitcom-style editing, the opening elicited soft chuckles from the audience. After the opener, performers Abigail Johnson ’21, Chautauqua Ordway ’20, John Stebbins ’22, Maddie Groff ’22 , Katherine Dunham ’19, Solu Obiorah ’22, Xavier Markey-Smith ’19 and Rhode Island School of Design student Veronica Bello dove into a fast-paced, theatrical sequence of sets, with each actor taking on different roles in multiple sketches throughout the show. Group members Pedro Bello and Harrison Fishman, also students at RISD, sat this show out.

Currently comprised of 10 students, all Out of Bounds members serve as both actors and writers. With weekly meetings throughout the semester and rehearsals before each show, members generate sketches in groups and edit each other’s work. Both Ordway and Groff describe the creation of these shows as a “collaborative” and “democratic” process.

The sketches’ subject matter of this show generally pertained to the daily lives of Brown University students. Whether mocking the way some professors lecture at lightning-fast speeds through dense material or the pep talks gym-goers give themselves when deadlifting at The Nelson Fitness Center, the Out of Bound performers used an upbeat playlist and dramatic lighting effects to exaggerate and satirize some phenomena that students encounter daily. “A lot of the sketches were (based) around working, studying, life at Brown, and that is often the case (with our sketches),” said Groff, who joined Out of Bounds in her second week at the University. Although the show did not have a theme, Groff explained that many ideas for the sketches stemmed from experiences that group members had while studying — so that naturally became a subject that pervaded the commentary.

Groff noted that Out of Bounds members use the same brainstorming exercises and structural format as the writers of “Saturday Night Live,” riddling their sets with comedic repetition, absurd circumstances and “blackout gags,” which are a rapid-fire slapstick bit. Residential Life Staff and audience member Brittney Merritt particularly enjoyed the recurring joke of the “Hag at Brown,” a role played by Markey-Smith, who gave mock advice regarding the housing lottery and meal plan system at the University.

In between live sketches, the show also featured a video sketch that parodied a commercial for a public law firm called “McDouglas & Sons.”

“Live comedy is really cool in that we can be reacting to the audience, and it can be a really living, breathing thing. … Video is really special because you can use cuts, and you can use angles and different shots to make jokes. You can do a lot of visual gags that you won’t be able to do on stage,” Out of Bounds member Ordway said.

“Even though no one in the group really had experience writing sketches before, … we all come together and learn with each other,” Groff said.

Members of Out of Bounds also spend time together outside group meetings, said Ordway. With the addition of four new freshman this year, a number that is unprecedented in the group’s history, he added that “it’s a different energy.”

“When you’re at Brown, you start to see things through a similar lens because you’ve just been around the same people and the same place for a while. So we’re getting really fresh perspectives because we have people who are from different areas of the country and have completely different backgrounds coming in to write these jokes with us, which is great,” Ordway said.

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