How Ought We To Laugh?

As part of the 2013 Diversity Conference at Regis, we (Communication major/Writing minor Hailey Barr, Dr. Janna Goodwin and student members of OutRegis!) will offer a lively workshop/demonstration, “How Ought We To Laugh?” on the convergent use of community-based inquiry, sketch comedy and strategies of facilitated dialogue as a way to heighten the immediacy and relevance of  diversity dialogues. Our goals are to stimulate high attendance at diversity events; to provide a focus that evokes familiarity, reflects complexity and encourages insight; to promote curiosity and understanding, and to create a theatrical/dialectical space for conversation and transformation. This unique approach may be especially productive on campuses where the majority of students, faculty and administration may not potently feel an imperative to speak together often about race, class, gender and sexuality, ability or other markers of difference.

VID01425Theatre—especially with purposeful, facilitated post-show interactivity included within the event frame—is unique in its power to raise complex issues and to illuminate perspectives that may be difficult to acknowledge and upsetting to discuss. Comic sketches that are developed, revised and rehearsed with guiding questions and socio-cultural awareness central to the process can be effective at engaging audiences and performers in collaborative, critical thinking and the sharing of narratives.

Transgressive laughter (with all its attending emotions) together with reflection—in a context of community, mutual interest and interconnection—has the potential to change the quality of conversation. Such performances tend to excite greater interest when they disrupt expectations and explode social comfort levels. Of course, when the explicit intention is, “Let’s put this right out into the room so we can all see it and respond to it!” (as opposed to the fearful directive,  “We must not offend anyone!”) –then, offense is certainly a possible result—but, it is “offense” (a word often misused to mean “discomfort”) that can be immediately taken on, communicated and understood together. Avoiding offense therefore is not one of our values. However, comedy in an educational setting with the explicit purposes we have described cannot be disturbing or obnoxious with only the hollow intention to shock for amusement. Solid scripts, conscientious performances and a solid forum for the meaningful exchange of ideas are integral to success. Planning and preparation must be collaborative, thoughtful and informed. Rehearsals need to include the facilitated dialogue, not leaving its form and process to improvisation any more than the show itself can be improvised.

Our approach is not without its skeptics and critics. On Thursday from 1:30-3:00 in Main Hall 333, we will give a brief history of the group, talk about its development over the years, discuss its challenges, perform some sketches, talk about them, and more. Come watch, laugh, listen, and contribute your thoughts and ideas.

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