How to Trick a Writer into Performing

I am not a performer.

At least, I don’t typically identify myself as one. I write, and work behind the scenes, and don’t actually get up on stage unless I absolutely have to.

So how did I find myself involved in both a performance class and a sketch comedy group?

I’m not really sure.

My Com 312: Performances of Self and Society class this semester was a communication-based study of the many ways in which we give performances, often through everyday ordinary actions. I was fascinated by the different theories of performance in the class. We read Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, examined gender as a performance, explored social dramas as defined by Victor Turner, and gave our own performances. Yes, it’s true—the students in Performances of Self and Society had to actually perform. One of our performances even had to appear as a video on YouTube. (This does not give you permission to go searching for these videos. Please, don’t do it!) Like I said, I don’t identify myself as a performer. But this class certainly challenged this notion. I was performing for my classmates, but I was also learning how even the smallest of actions can be performed in order to communicate something to the audience. Everything from the way I dress, to the way I walk, to the items I bring to class, to the people I talk to are part of a performance I give to send information about myself.

OutRighteous is a sketch comedy group that focuses on writing sketches, which are then performed by members of OutRegis. I love to write, but really need that outside motivation to produce something worth reading and/or presenting to an audience. Hailey Barr told me about OutRighteous before the start of the semester, and I thought, “Great! I can join this club and write! Maybe I can even write things that are funny!”

I’m going to point out here that Hailey told me about the club before the start of the semester. So what started out as “Oh cool, I want to join the club!” quickly turned into “I’m taking a full course load, am involved in three other clubs, am a month behind in homework, and it’s only the first week of classes.” This translates to: Gina didn’t attend OutRighteous meetings.

Not until later in the semester, anyway, when Hailey managed to drag me to the club after all (free food might have been involved). I didn’t get to do much writing in the club at that point, but I started to see the way in which a group like OutRighteous can work together to produce sketches that become live performances, and the kinds of things that must go into consideration when writing for the stage.

In fact, there is something very important about taking your writing from something on the page, and bringing it out into a performance space. One of the readings for Janna’s class—from The Performance Studies Reader by Henry Bial—suggested that texts, or written works, can also function as a sort of performance. And so by writing, I performed. And by presenting what I wrote, I performed. This next semester, I plan on attending OutRighteous much more regularly. As I continue to participate in OutRighteous, I’ll continue performing, even if I never become a member of the on-stage cast for OutRegis.

I guess I might be a performer after all.

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