When Recess takes the stage for its midnight show in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre Friday, audience members will be there for the same reason they started coming six years ago – to laugh.
The comedy troupe indulges in a brand of humor senior member Luke Wooster describes as “sometimes off-color, a little edgy . an obscure type of comedy.”
But Recess is not entirely fun, games and improvisations involving genitalia.
The group operates in a professional manner – it maintains an intense rehearsal schedule and this year, it faces the added challenge of integrating three new members. Add to that the pressure of returning to the stage after last year’s season, when it was forced to turn away students at the door.
“One of the most important things we’ve been trying to do these past couple of weeks is just getting to know each other,” sophomore Chris Alexander said. “We’re a very young group as of now, and so we’ve been figuring out just how to work together. There’s a lot to be determined as to where this group is going to go and how to work as an ensemble.”
“This is a pretty pivotal year for us,” senior Aaron Berkowitz said. “Lucas (Wooster) and I are sort of a link to the past, but (we) weren’t with the so-called `old school’ long enough to be part of the old school. But everyone else were freshmen last year – this is pretty much an all new Recess.”
The “old school” began in 1992 with the group No Time Players. That group attracted a strong following, and when the group’s members graduated, they started a professional troupe in New York City. The members of the group who remained at GW formed Recess.
Recess’ popularity surged last year when the troupe switched from staging weekly shows at Downstage Lisner to performing three or four times a semester at the Betts Theatre. At the Betts Theatre, everything is on a larger scale, which forced the group to perform at a higher level, Berkowitz said, crediting the move with much of the group’s success.
This year, Recess will give performances at both Betts Theatre and Downstage Lisner.
“In the Betts Theatre, there’s a physical separation between the stage and the audience, so it’s more like the audience is watching you,” sophomore Steve Siddell said. “But if you’re in the Downstage, they’re actually on the stage and they’re actually part of the performance.”
Recess’ members spend two hours a day Monday through Thursday and most of Friday preparing for their shows.
“Usually someone comes in with an idea, a concept for the skit that’s not necessarily written yet as a sketch,” sophomore Molly Adler said. “They bring it to the rest of the group, and everyone in the group can contribute what they think will add to it. We just sit around with ideas to enhance it. Then someone will write it up for the show.”
The group prides itself on its stylistic diversity and its distinct brand of humor. Recess shows include a variety of skits that range from racy to musical. The diversity within the group means the shows encompass a variety of themes – some members have musical backgrounds and others are more skilled in theater or improvisation.
“Some people don’t appreciate it,” Wooster said. “Sometimes the humor sort of goes in obscure, intangible directions, and we lose some people in that. It does deviate from the traditional type of comedy.”
Although Recess’ routines could be considered occasionally offensive, the troupe tends to avoid certain topics – like D.C. and GW politics.
“We don’t like to delve into school politics,” Wooster said. “We try to stay as apolitical as possible and try not to get messed up in the bureaucracy so we can just do our own thing.”
This season, Recess will continue to do just that – its own thing.
Recess performs Friday at midnight in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Tickets are $3 and are available only at the door.