Down kitty

Niema Jordan

The room is compact. There is no stage and the students appear serious. They appear out of character looking over set designs and discussing scenes. Then the real Mee-Ow kicks in. The students adopt characters and they begin a murder mystery scene. There is a loud scream and a girl drops to the ground. The remaining characters oddly attempt to solve the mystery by playing the popular drinking game “Never Have I Ever.”

The cast of Mee-Ow rehearses skits and joke around in Parkes Hall in preparation for their upcoming show “Mee-Ow Goes to Old Orchard.” They will take their antics to McCormick Auditorium in Norris University Center this weekend, mixing sketch, improv and rock ‘n’ roll.

“You should come if you’ve ever been to Old Orchard,” says John Dixon, a Communication junior and a second-year Mee-Ow performer. “If you haven’t been, you can learn something about Skokie.”

The group has been making their way around campus all year. In September, freshmen got a taste of Mee-Ow during a New Student Week performance. Others have seen them perform for various dorm events, and in January many students saw Mee-Ow in a packed show at Shanley Pavilion.

“I was thoroughly impressed by their witty and often times surprising humor,” says Jeremy Klem, a McCormick freshman who has seen the group perform twice this year.

“Mee-Ow Goes to Old Orchard” includes a live band, Captain Tea Bag, who will play between scenes. The show is co-directed by Communication seniors Bridget Moloney and Briggs Hatton.

“We were cast (in Mee-Ow) our sophomore year,” Hatton says. “On our way home Bridget said, ‘We’re going to direct senior year.'”

“It’s been wonderful,” says Moloney of their year as directors. “The only thing is it’s different being in charge. When there were little problems at the Shanley show and people came up to us, Briggs and I would pretend to look for people who were really in charge.”

Spending 20 hours per week together in rehearsal, Mee-Ow cast and crew members have developed a close bond. Moloney notes that they even are in touch with the group’s alumni. The time current cast members have spent together has allowed the members to adjust to and compliment each other’s improv styles, which range from the verbal to the more physical forms of comedy. The chemistry of the group is apparent on stage.

“They are very comfortable around each other, which makes the audience comfortable,” says Jocelyn Chu, a Weinberg freshman. “They do some embarrassing things but if they were embarrassed, it wouldn’t be funny.”

Things that seem awkward or embarrassing often stem from audience participation, a vital aspect of each performance. During the improv portion, the audience is asked to choose a nongeographical location to set the scene. The audience can also choose a relationship for the actors to illustrate — whether it be pencil and pencil sharpener or key and key hole, embarrassment is the last thing on the actors’ minds.

“My favorite part is being able to go all out,” Dixon says. Many of the actors have had experience with traditional theater but feel more comfortable with this improvisational and less formal style.

“Sketch and improv are my best areas,” Dixon says. “I have the energy needed for those types of performance.”

News of Mee-Ow’s energy and overall package has spread around campus and many look forward to this weekend’s show.

“I heard the preview show was so hilarious,” says Tiffany Forte, a Medill sophomore. “I can’t wait to see the full show.”

“Mee-Ow Goes to Old Orchard” shows Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Medill freshman Niema Jordan is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected].