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Back To On Campus Home September 2007 Volume 33, Issue 11 Home

STAFF SPOTLIGHT

College of Pharmacy staff member finds humor in life through improvisation

Monique Daviau, Julie Lucas and Aden Kirschner (left to right) perform together during a Girls Girls Girls show July 21 at the Hideout Theater in Austin, Girls Girls Girls is Austin's oldest and only all-female improvisational comedy troupe. Monique Daviau, Julie Lucas and Aden Kirschner (left to right) perform together during a Girls Girls Girls show July 21 at the Hideout Theater in Austin, Girls Girls Girls is Austin's oldest and only all-female improvisational comedy troupe.
Photo: Marsha Miller

Every Saturday night at the Hideout Theatre in downtown Austin Julie Lucas creates a new character for herself on the spot and stars in an original musical. One week she is a Siamese twin in a sideshow, the next she is a stage mom.

By day, Lucas is a development specialist in the College of Pharmacy, a wife and mother of two boys, ages 3 and 7. She has worked in the college for five years.

Her second family is the group of seven women she performs with, Austin’s oldest and only all-female improvisational comedy troupe, Girls Girls Girls.

The dialogue, songs and dance numbers the troupe perform each week aren’t rehearsed and the women make up everything as they go from a single audience suggestion.

Photo: Marsha Miller
Photo: Marsha Miller

“Every week we perform a never before seen musical,” Lucas said.

In the past the group has performed musicals set in a daycare center, under the sea, Hell, Paris, a sideshow and NASA.

There is a method to the group’s long-form improvised musicals. The troupe rehearses three hours a week working on song structure, dancing and improvistional skills. They also watch Broadway musicals to study how they are structured.

“We rehearse making things up so when we are on stage it isn’t so surprising,” Lucas said.

Photo: Marsha Miller Girls Girls Girls improvisational comedy troupe.
Photo: Marsha Miller

In addition to Lucas, members of the group are Kacey Samiee, Shana Merlin, Shelly Miller, Andrea Young, Mo Daviau, Madeline Malka and Jennifer Cargill. Lucas isn’t the only Longhorn in the troupe, Young is working on her Ph.D. in math, Samiee is a graduate of the university’s automated lighting program and Daviau is also a graduate of the university and a former Harry Ransom Center staff member.

Lucas’s love of performing goes back to grade school when she played piano and danced. She carried it through to high school where she discovered theater and then to college where she earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, performance and playwrighting. She has also earned a master’s degree in applied behavioral science.

“I’ve always, from a young age, had an affinity for it. I felt the most comfortable in that environment,” Lucas said.

Lucas first became exposed to improvisational comedy while working in Seattle for the Kings’ Elephant Theatre. She didn’t perform it at the time and as the years progressed and she started a family, Lucas began to move away from the theater.

She moved to Austin in 1998 and discovered the Hideout Theatre where she saw groups performing improv and other comedy routines. Years later at the same theater after watching the Heroes of Comedy she realized something was missing in her life.

“Between moving and having kids I hadn’t performed in five years. I looked at husband and said ‘I have to do this,’” Lucas said.

She enrolled in a beginner’s improv class taught by fellow Girls Girls Girls cast member Merlin and was hooked.

“It felt so good to be performing again and having fun with it,” Lucas said.

Lucas loved it so much she took the Level II and III improv classes and eventually auditioned for Girls Girls Girls. She has now been a member for two years and like the other seven cast members dedicates herself to each performance.

“I try really hard to follow whatever instinct hits,” Lucas said. “You have to be very quick on your feet and willing to let go if it turns into something else.”

Lucas is the only player with children so she often falls into playing the good mom and bad mom roles.

“I also play children well,” Lucas said. “I have a good perspective on what they do and say.”

The closeness of the troupe helps them succeed, she said.

“There is a lot of trust built up when you are on stage with someone over and over again, she said.. “With trust and friendship you can’t help but make it successful.”

While her purpose is to entertain people with improv each week, the skills Lucas has learned from performing it are life lessons that carry her far beyond the stage.

“Improv really helps you to approach every relationship and situation with a positive attitude,” she said. “It has made me less fearful of doing things wrong and more accepting of learning from my mistakes.”

The troupe’s series of shows, “The Boys of Summer,” feature one male star in each show. It runs through Aug. 11 at the Hideout. All shows start at 8 p.m.

For more information on the troupe go to http://ggg.austinimprov.com.