St. Olaf College | News

Not a laughing matter: Alumna learns, performs at Second City

Performing at the Second City Mainstage has been a rite of passage for many of the biggest names in American comedy. This summer, Emilie Hapgood ’21 will be joining the list of those who’ve performed in the venue.

Hapgood is a part of Second City’s Comedies Studies summer program. Alongside a cohort of about 15 others, Hapgood is taking courses explicitly focused on sketch writing, improvisational comedy, physical and vocal training, as well as the history of modern comedy.

“It’s kind of like I’m at summer camp, but it’s more intense,” Hapgood says. “It’s a lot of work but it’s super, super fun.”

Emilie Hapgood ’21 performing with InBlack at St. Olaf.

The program will culminate with Hapgood and her classmates performing a showcase on the Second City Mainstage informed by the work that they’ve done throughout the six week program. Additionally, going through the Comedy Studies program often acts as a fast track to the Second City conservatory and more Mainstage shows.

Hapgood originally became interested in applying for the program after two recent alumni who were members of InBlack, St. Olaf’s sketch comedy group, also participated in the program. While on the Hill, Hapgood was involved in InBlack as well as Scared Scriptless, the college’s student improv group.

Hapgood points to the structure of the work and the relationships formed through these groups as vital in preparing her for her work at Second City.

“The extracurriculars at Olaf, it was so, so helpful to have those,” Hapgood says. “There’s only so much you can learn in an academic setting.”

Emilie Hapgood ’21 performing with InBlack at St. Olaf.

In the classroom, Hapgood also points to the Playwriting course taught by Associate Professor of Theater William Sonnega as being highly useful in her preparation for the program. “It’s forcing you to write under pressure, which was really useful for me,” she says.

Through the course, a group of 18 students developed one-act plays from the ground up, working on every step of the process. According to Sonnega, “The course dug deeply into the unique challenges confronting those who write for live performance, with special emphasis on how playwrights collaborate with actors, directors, and designers in bringing new works to life.”

This sort of hands-on work is exactly what Hapgood says is vital to informing any sort of work in the arts.

“Applying skills and working with other people, especially in theater and the arts, is so important,” Hapgood says. “[Having spaces to be] working with other people and creating things is the most useful thing.”