Improv troupe introduces baby monkeys

The Stage Monkeys’ members rehearse their performance at practice Monday night. Mary Sergeant/Printz
The Stage Monkeys’ members rehearse their performance at practice Monday night.
Mary Sergeant/Printz

The University of Southern Mississippi improv troupe The Stage Monkeys had its tryouts for the spring semester and chose six new members out of the eleven who auditioned.

“With our new batch of baby monkeys, our troupe will have the largest number of improvisers that I’ve seen in years, which will bring new dynamics and extra variety to our comedy,” said Stage Monkeys’ president and four-year member Jamie Jelinski.

When I walked into Joseph Green Hall Room 116 for an interview, I found The Stage Monkeys standing in a circle, beating each other with invisible swords. I then had the chance to meet some of the baby monkeys.

Samantha Bull | Freshman
Samantha Bull | Freshman

They each spoke with me about what inspired them to try out for The Stage Monkeys and what they were looking forward to in the upcoming spring semester.

Ashley Grillot, a junior marketing major, said her decision to tryout was spur of the moment. “I have a good time watching them, so I’d probably have a good time hanging out with them,” Grillot said.

“I’m excited because I think I’ll have more time in it than everybody else because I’m a freshman,” said Samantha Bull, a freshman international business major. “So I have more time to be here and be around everybody and learn how to do improv.”

John Mark Gilder | Junior
John Mark Gilder | Junior

Junior English major John Mark Gilder was not shy about what he knew his wheelchair would bring to the group. “They just got four-wheel drive,” Gilder said.

“I heard about them from a friend and I thought I might as well try it,” said sophomore Joey Matturri, a public relations major. “It seemed like it’d be a lot of fun, a different creative outlet. I’m super excited to be making people laugh. It’s what I love to do.”

Aron George, a junior interdisciplinary studies major who joined The Stage Monkeys last semester, recalls what it was like being on the other side of the selection process and sympathizes with everyone who tried out this year.

“I think it was pretty easy forme to relate to the people that were auditioning, the nervousness and how you do learn certain things that they might not be doing in their audition that they are going to pick up on,” George said. “I understood that I wasn’t amazing when I first auditioned.”

Ashley Grillot | Junior
Ashley Grillot | Junior

Matthew Lyle, The Stage Monkeys vice president, described how interacting with the people auditioning and observing their behavior is key to making a final decision on any new member.

“We can teach the improv qualities and rules to anybody as long as they have a desire to learn and are capable of showing some substantial amount of wit on a stage,” Lyle said. “We can teach you improv. We just want you to
be funny.”

However, the selection process involved not only interacting with those who auditioned but also a written portion. Sophomore Joseph Jelinski designed a short quiz so that the selection committee could see how those auditioning would work if they were actually given a lot of time to think about their answers.

Some of the questions required picture drawing and others asked thought-provoking questions like, “If your friend was unconscious how would you mess with
their subconscious?”

Joey Matturri | Sophomore
Joey Matturri | Sophomore

President Jamie Jelinski said this is because The Stage Monkeys want stay away from the people who go for the overly sexual joke every time and the written test provides an opportunity to weed out those people more quickly. “We like to have varied humor and, on occasion, tasteful humor,” she said.

The six additional members to the Stage Monkeys will bring the group’s total number to an impressive seventeen. However, rather than a complication, the troupe sees this as an opportunity to grow. Member Evan Wesson expects good things to result from an expanding improv group. “Friendships will be formed, chemistry will be discovered, all that good stuff,” Wesson said.

As The Stage Monkeys welcome their new members, they also begin practicing for the upcoming shows they have planned for this semester. Viewers can see The Stage Monkeys perform every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in JGH 116. Every show is free and features mostly audience-involved games based off of the popular improv television series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” To stay updated, follow The Stage Monkeys on Facebook at Stage Monkeys-Hattiesburg.