Just for Laughs

By Dan Elliott

With one week left of the spring semester, students are doubling down on their efforts one last time as they rush headfirst into finals. Here at the Midcoast campus, finals for Tess Van Horn’s Theater Performance class come in the form of a final show, written as a collaboration between students with the guidance of their instructor, and presented onto the public. The second annual spring showcase was held on Friday in the L.L. Bean Learning Commons, and featured six short skits put on by 10 students of Van Horn’s THEA-106 program.

Midcoast Theater-1
Student actors perform “Just for Laughs” in the L.L.Bean Learning Commons. Photo by Dan Elliott.

This year’s theme of the performance, aptly named “Just For Laughs,” was comedy, which saw the students satirize such topics as the art-making process, gender stereotypes and expectations on a blind date, and personal philosophies revolving around loss. The use of props was also prevalent, as typewriters and newspapers were utilized in the sketch “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” which sought to create the illusion of an office space. The Beacon itself even played a minor cameo role in the segment as well, as the acting students used the last issue as a prop in their performance.

The segment “Hidden Image Picture” seemed to have the eccentric/straight man comedy balance that ran rampant in the performing duos of the forties and fifties. Jared Morgan’s delivery as Reuban, in particular, seemed to contain all the energy one would see in a Nathan Lane performance. Maxen Hathcock’s mild-mannered responses as Robert helped to drive home a sense of neurotic craze in Morgan’s dialog that did, as advertised in the show’s title, garner a cacophony of laughter from those in attendance.

In “Beyond Therapy,” the audience was treated to the pitfalls of gender preconceptions and the impact of first impressions of a blind date. Like “Hidden Image Pictures,” viewers were treated to a slightly more eccentric character (Bruce, played by Asher Mason) haplessly attempting to woo a young woman on a wavelength opposite of his (Prudence, played by Paige Shannon) who begins the date seemingly patient. Both parties end the date noticeably less dry, as the particular sketch ended with water being flung between actors, with the audience (thankfully) being spared of becoming soaked.

The program’s instructor and show director, Tess Van Horn, teaches performing arts classes both here at the Brunswick campus and at South Portland. In addition to Theater Performance, she teaches THEA-105, Introduction to Acting, which will be offered this fall at both of the aforementioned locations. In addition to her duties as an instructor at SMCC, Van Horn is involved in community theater, staging youth theater performances in Portland.

The walls of the Learning Commons, where “Just for Laughs” took place, were adorned with various works of art that were part of the art exhibit from only a week prior.

Together with Van Horn’s performance art, the combination made a sort of fluid collage that presented the artistic versatility of Midcoast students, and their ability to express themselves in a multitude of ways. This year’s turnout for both the exhibit and the performance was impressive, and it is Van Horn’s hope that this upward trend in attendance will only continue in the semesters to come.

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