The sketch show INBLACK has become something of a cultural land- mark here at St. Olaf. The night tickets go on sale, the line to buy them starts in front of the cafeteria and stretches to the Buntrock ballrooms half an hour before dinner even begins. This year was no different, with one show selling out within 14 minutes and all 1,000 tickets gone by the next day. It’s no wonder – INBLACK’s reputation is well-deserved, and 2016’s performances upheld this campus-wide anticipation.
This year’s cast featured Allison Lonigro ’16, Brandyn Liebe ’16, Sam McIntosh ’19, Lars Midthun ’16, Grace Brandt ’17, Elana Abelson ’17, Stuart Gordon ’18 and Bailey Williams ’16. Ten shows from Wednesday, April 20 to Saturday, April 23 took place in the Flaten Art Barn, each one packed.
The format of an INBLACK show is quite simple: the performers created 28 sketches, and as audience members enter they receive what looks like a Bingo card with INBLACK written across the top with four rows of text in red, blue, green and yellow underneath. A matching screen is on display behind the perform- ers, and squares are removed once each sketch is performed. People can yell out
what sketch they want to see next (for example, “B yellow”), resulting in each night having a different order and flair. After a preshow playlist and video, all eight performers burst out from behind a sheet – wearing all black, down to the fingernails – to strobe lights and trap music and proceed to take suggestions. After approximately 75 minutes, the show ends and the screen is, as they say, in black.
The best thing about an INBLACK performance is that each individual sketch contains its own tone and form of humor. Some sketches elicited the kind of laughter that makes one’s stomach ache, such as “Seitan,” a ritual hailing of the savory meat substitute doused in red light and pentagrams. In others, the humor was much more pointed, like “Lady S.C.O.T.U.S.,” which imagined a nine-woman Supreme Court rendered unable to work due to such stereotypes as constant crying or being unable to drive. Certainly not to be forgotten were sketches that were not funny at all but thought-provoking and contemplative, asking why we pray for Paris and ignore hundreds of other terrorist attacks around the world or whether or not sexual assault is taken seriously on this campus.
Regardless of the subject matter or
how it was presented, each sketch drew on concepts and tropes with which the audience was familiar. Who can’t laugh at the image of Randy Clay as a trea- sure hunter looking for the St. Olaf endowment fund, or grin knowingly at a Wizard of Oz-style musical about Pause pizza, or understand the often overwhelming anxieties of being a St. Olaf student? INBLACK addressed all of these and more, resulting in laughter at all the right times and successful lam- poons of its targets.
“INBLACK, when it examined prob- lems within the St. Olaf community and beyond, refused to pull its punches. Whether done humorously or seriously, it spoke to me and, I’m sure, the rest of the audience,” Catherine Stookey ’18, who attended performances on both Thursday and Saturday, said.
Overall, INBLACK continued its streak of making packed houses laugh, cry and marvel at the sheer level of talent exhibited by the performers. The eight phenomenal actors, comedians, writers, singers and dancers created a show that will be talked about at St. Olaf for a long time.