Monday, September 28, 2009

Ladylike? Maybe not so much.

After our third show as a group—at the 2008 Fringe Fest—a slightly awestruck friend told the ladies of Spite "you girls play like guys." We chose to take that as a compliment.

And as one audience member said after our show on Friday, "You guys talk about vaginas a lot."

This is funny to me because before the show we recognized a fair number of under-21 audience members and decided to see how far away we could stay from our usual content. Not that we intentionally play just goes there sometimes.

What we know: The bolder we start, the better the show. We try to come out of the gate fearless, with strong emotions and big physicality. Over time, we've worked on avoiding conflict (which can be tough when you're trying to play big, bad and bold), create stronger relationships, be more physical and show more range.

I think when our content goes to adult material, it does so for a few different reasons:
  • Honesty. At our best, we deal with sexual topics in a real, vulnerable, truthful way. In Friday's show, there was a long scene about a very nervous mother telling her two daughters about sex. I can honestly say I didn't play a single line for laughs. Neither did Megan and Nikki, who were scarily in sync—to the point of saying a line together, without even making eye-contact. We got more laughs in that scene than any other; a few audience members told us afterward that we'd gotten things exactly right. In the Fringe Fest shows, there was a scene about two high school girls taunting the school slut, rumored to have given a blow job. The three characters found common ground in talking about how the't exactly a romantic one.
  • Playfulness. We've done a scene that made one big euphemism out of a bratwurst-eating competition. One about a character "taking care of herself" in a Target bathroom. We've drawn the female anatomy on the stage in "chalk" and given birth with unusual helpers. (Which is funny, since none of us has been any more involved than showing up at the hospital.) Just because that's where the scene took us, and we had fun on the ride.
  • Nothing better to do. OK. So the smut doesn't always evolve from relationships or happen tastefully in support of the plot. We played an after-midnight show so dirty I wanted to shower was fun and self-indulgent and for an audience of a half-dozen improvisers. Sometimes we go for the laugh. I'm not particularly proud of that—but I'm not particularly apologetic, either.
I think it's inevitable in an all-woman show we're going to talk about some of the things women talk about when they're alone. And yes, that means our anatomy—what it does, what gets done to it, what we feel, what we fear.

I grew up in the '70s and joined the workforce in the '80s, in the afterglow of the Women's Liberation Movement. Besides one kindergarten teacher arguing with me that little girls weren't pilots (my first, and most short-lived, dream job), they were stewardesses (I won that round mostly because I was stubborn and loud), I never saw any evidence girls couldn't do what boys did. It never occurred to me I wouldn't have a career in whatever I chose to do. I was surprised as hell when a director told me he believed men were typically and inherently funnier than women.

I've seen a few other all-girl improv troupes, but only one I'd aspire to be like: Children of a Lesser God in Chicago. They play women, but not pointedly so—there was no statement in their work in the show I saw. They just played fearlessly and seemed to be having a fabulous time.

That's the goal with Spite. And if sometimes we end up in the gutter...well, fuck it.

1 comment:

  1. I love it! I have not found any of the Spite shows to be overly smutty... Adult- yes. I HAVE found them all to be well balanced, and funny as hell! Yup, I'm a fan of girl-prov. :D


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