After last Sunday’s rehearsal, four of the five women that are members of the ZOIKS! improv comedy troupe shared some insight into their lives as students and comediennes at Emporia State. This semester, ZOIKS! has more than doubled the number of women in the troupe, with women making up five of the 15 members.
Lindsay Roland, junior theater major in her second year of ZOIKS!, said that a lot more women auditioned this semester than in previous semesters.
“We try not to take people because of their gender — we take them because they’re funny,” Roland said. “And it just so happened that we had three hilarious girls who came in this year.”
Although there are fewer women than men in ZOIKS!, the women of ZOIKS! say the setting they work in is comfortable.
“All of the guys are really supportive… it’s really nice to work in that kind of environment,” Roland said.
Tricia Stogsdill, senior theater major and three year member of ZOIKS!, offered some advice to students, especially women, who are interested in joining the comedy troupe.
“You really can’t be funny as a girl if you’re afraid to be ugly onstage,” Stogsdill said. “And so many women are afraid to look bad onstage… so many girls are afraid to be ugly because it’s not cute and cool and everything and that’s the best advice that I have for anyone – try to look as ugly as possible all the time.”
Roland said that many of them often switch gender-roles during performances and portray men.
“We love to play men,” Roland said. “It’s kinda fun to bring a new twist on that stuff, ‘cause it’s always funny to see guys acting like girls and I think it’s funny to see girls acting like guys.”
The women of ZOIKS! said that, when it comes to sexuality onstage, things can get a bit awkward.
“My dad was in the audience once when I was playing a dildo salesman and that was pretty awkward,” Stogsdill said. “I tested the merchandise onstage.… (talking about sex is) not awkward for me, but I want it to be as awkward as possible for the audience.”
Originally, Roland said she auditioned for ZOIKS! because she thinks improv is an important skill for actors. Roland is one of several theater majors involved in ZOIKS!.
“I just ended up having a lot of fun with it,” Roland said. “I think it’s just something that will really help onstage. If someone ever freezes then I can help us get out of the situation.”
The women of ZOIKS! said that they draw inspiration from several comediennes, including Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Poehler and Charna Halpern.
“My hero (Madeline Kahn) died years ago, but she was in Mel Brooks movies and she is one of the funniest people I have ever seen on film,” Roland said. “I watch The Office regularly and I love Angela Kinsey’s work. She plays Angela Martin and I think she’s incredible… She improvises a lot of her stuff on the show and I just think it’s so amazing ‘cause you can never tell. Those are my two main influences in female comedy.”
Laura Dossett, freshman theater major, said she is especially inspired by Artemis Pebdani, who guest stars on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
“When I was 15, I was at a summer theater camp and (Pebdami) came down for a week and taught improv every night and then I did a show with her, so I was taught a lot by her,” Dossett said.
One of the newest faces in ZOIKS! is Caelee Gibbs, junior communication major and member of Alpha Sigma Alpha.
“(My sorority sisters) all think it’s terribly fascinating that I made it… now they’re like, ‘We’re coming to every show, even if you don’t perform, we really want to see just how these people go and do things,’ Gibbs said. “They’re a huge support system so that’s really nice.”
Gibbs, Dossett and Briana Julo, freshman theater major, are DOIKS!, or junior ZOIKS!, members who can later “graduate” as full-fledged ZOIKS! members.
“Our first semester is kind of our ‘getting our feet wet’ kind of thing,” Gibbs said. “They let us do off-campus performances and just little things like that, but we don’t actually get to go out there and perform for the big shows.”
ZOIKS! members said they are working more on long form improv, which they will use in their upcoming performance.
“Long-form improv is where it’s not so much a game so much as we make scenes, and they last longer than our regular games do… We get suggestions from the audience and we make scenes based on that,” Roland said.
ZOIKS! performs at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. next Saturday in the R.Q. Frederickson Theatre in Roosevelt Hall. Admission is free.