The first time I directed sketch comedy material was during my New Playwrights’ Theatre days on Church Street, and Yeardley Smith was in the cast. (She was 18 at the time – her first paying acting job.) That was 1982. Yeardley has gone on to fame and fortune as Lisa Simpson and I’m still directing sketch comedy with teenagers. Go figure.
It was a series of improbable circumstances that led me back to kids and comedy in 1995. Since then I have heard my middle and high school students called popular kids, losers, bullies, abnormals, outcasts, show-offs, malcontents and geeks. I have also heard them called talented and courageous. It’s been a 17 year learning experience for all involved – students and adults.
We have learned that students with physical and learning disabilities can overcome numerous obstacles, step up and successfully create and perform original comedy material. As time went by we learned that we could mix middle school, high school and college students to successfully present original comedy in a professional venues including the 2010 Capital Fringe. We have learned that autism and learning disabilities do not hinder comedy writing nor performing when a young person is given proper opportunities.
We learned that our comedy material is worthy of publication and subsequently can used by schools around the world. Close to 50,000 script books have been sold in every state of the USA, all over Canada, as well as in Australia, Singapore, Guam, Portugal, Germany and even in Dubai. Five of the eighteen published sketch anthologies include student-written comedy material.
We have also learned that working in the school system has its peculiarities. The way young people can be treated by the elders of education can boarder on the ludicrous. So, I figured … this year for FRINGE? How about a play where a high school’s habitual trouble makers are forced to form a comedy club because “laughter is the best medicine”? Will a creative outlet alter their bad behavior or inspire them to stir up more trouble? Yes.
I convinced one of my published comedy writing students, Liam Brennan, to join me in writing this romp and you can see the results in the 2012 Capital Fringe.
HeHEE or “What? It’s Not Glee?” will be performed at The Studio Theatre’s Milton Theatre on Sat, July 14 2:45 PM /Sun. July 15 8:15 PM/Sat. July 21 – 4:30 PM /Wed. July 25 – 6:30 PM/ and Fri. July 27 – 7:00PM. Purchase tickets here. Read about our student programs in the schools here.
Harry M. Bagdasian’s website.