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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Your Slip is showing

A dark room furnished only with particle board tables and some chairs lining the undecorated white walls, is instantly brought to life, not by the unflattering glow of the fluorescent lights overhead, but by the jesting banter and cheerful laughter of the members of Freudian Slip as they gather for a typical weeknight rehearsal.
Freudian Slip is the only student-run improvisational comedy troupe at Texas A&M. The troupe was founded a little more than 12 years ago and has since been voted the best theatrical troupe in the Brazos Valley, said Jeff Patton, a junior philosophy major and director of Freudian Slip.
The group holds four rehearsals every week, and members are required to attend at least three of those, Patton said. In these rehearsals, members warm up with a free association exercise, in which one person says a word and the next person follows with the next word that springs to mind. They also work on types of improvised scenes that range from as short as three lines of dialogue to 15 to 20 minutes in length. As the rehearsal goes on, the plain room transforms fluidly from a birthday party to a dentist’s office to a bounty hunter’s hideout and, finally, to the set of a soap opera, complete with an evil mummy twin back from the dead.
Even as the members watch each other work, and bowl over with laughter, they are always observing with a critical eye. When a scene ends, they are quick to direct each other and give constructive notes on how to be better improvisers. The characters they instantaneously create and perform are the most important part of the comedy, said Rashaun “Bob” Fontenot, a senior English major.
“(When you improvise), you have to become someone else completely. You don’t think ‘How would this character react?’ because you are the character,” he said. “It’s all in the interaction between the characters. The situation arises out of the character; the character does not arise from the situation.”
All of the practice pays off when it’s show time. Freudian Slip performs approximately five shows each semester at A&M. The money it makes from ticket sales funds the group’s traveling expenses, Patton said. They have performed at the Out of Bounds Festival in Austin as well as for Texas A&M at Galveston. Besides traveling to perform, the group travels for workshops and training. The have gone to Second City in Chicago, a theater that has a training center for improvisation, where comedians such as Chris Farelly, Jim Belushi, Mike Myers and Tina Fey got their start, said Thomas Elsom, a senior chemical engineering major and member of Freudian Slip.
“It is like the Mecca of all of those kinds of performers,” he said. “If New York is the home of theater in America, Chicago would be the home of improv.”
When the members of Freudian Slip are not performing or traveling, they are often found together simply hanging out as friends. They watch movies, play board games, video games and poker, or eat lunch together before a show, Fontenot said. Being together outside of rehearsal is an important part of developing the comedy because it takes time for “group mind” to develop, he said.
“It’s part of improv,” he said. “(You have to be able) to see where someone else is going if they say something off-the-wall.”
As the only woman on the troupe, Kat Davis, a sophomore philosophy major, said she is close with the other members even though she doesn’t play poker or video games.
“I’ve always played basketball on all-girl teams in high school, and it’s different being with all guys,” she said. “Guys are easier (to get along with than females). They make fun of each other more, and it’s fun to work in that dynamic.”
To become a member of Freudian Slip, students must go through an audition process that takes three or four nights. Auditions are held once every summer and fall, and about 60 to 70 people try out. Anywhere from one to nine students are chosen as new cast members by the permanent members, Elsom said.
“We are looking for things like creativity, spontaneity, working well with others, and (the ability) to say what comes to mind,” Fontenot said.
However, the audition does not end there. The permanent members review the new cast members’ performance every month, and (a new) person could be asked to step down, Fontenot said.
“In three or four nights, it’s hard to tell if you are going to grow as improviser,” he said. “If we get somebody who was bedazzling during tryouts, then we think they have potential. But after a semester’s worth of shows, if they don’t get any better than the first night they performed, then we don’t keep them around.”
Elliot Hall, a sophomore mechanical engineering major and new member this semester, joked that he sweats every rehearsal, but said that being part of the troupe is really just a lot of fun.
Elsom said students should audition if they are comfortable being in front of audiences and feel they can get along easily with others. There is not just one personality that fits the troupe, but the average class clown is often a good candidate, he said.
Freudian Slip brings many diverse students together, but they all have one thing in common.
“I like to make people laugh,” said Fontenot. “That’s all it is.”

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