Looking for a place to bake a cake on stage? Sweep a floor for ten minutes? Practice stand-up comedy or maybe dust off your Morgan Freeman impression? Maybe you’re taking a tap dancing class and want to show off your moves. Whatever your thing is, the University of New Orleans Lakefront Players have your fix, and are coming to a lab theater near you.
Starting September 7, the aptly-titled “Risky Business” is a student-run showcase that invites all UNO students and faculty, regardless of major, to dream big and dare to fail onstage. Joni Bankston, current president of the Lakefront Players theater troupe on campus, describes Risky Business as an “open–formed showcase where anyone can come do whatever they want. It’s an open platform for people to put themselves out there.”
Risky Business was formed from a small group of theater students looking for a way to express themselves. Original creator Sarah Beth James was a graduate student at the time who founded the event “solely for the purpose for people to get up on stage and do whatever they want, to do the thing they’re scared to do and risk it all—literally put it all on stage.”
What began as a liberating way to blow off steam between classes soon became a popular campus event that would often see the small lab theatre of room 121 in the Performing Arts Center crammed with students of all majors, eager to watch brave classmates dare to take risks out of their comfort zones in a friendly environment.
“It’s only a year old, but we wanted to continue it anyway because we love it so much,” Bankston explained. “And it’s a great opportunity for students.”
While the typical Risky Business routine may involve a monologue or stand-up comedy, Bankston said that the possibilities are endless, citing examples of past routines that often moved and inspired audience members. “It’s being able to get out of academia for a minute and just being able to do what you love, or even something that you hate.”
LFP historian Nikka Hunter explained that new students often feel social anxiety and have trouble breaking out of their shell. “It’s a way of opening up,” she added. Hunter believes that Risky Business is a platform which allows “people to just be people.” In turn, it de-stigmatizes the negative connotations of the word fail, reminding students that “it’s okay to fall on your face sometimes.”
Both LFP officers feel that this year will be interesting thanks to the many fresh faces coming through the doors of UNO.
Bankston added that this year’s installment of Risky Business aspires to be more interactive and engaging with newer faces. “We’re going to be more encouraging, more audience-involved. A lot more improv.”
“It’s a lot of fun, and people love to come and see it just to see what’s going to happen because nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Bankston said. “It’s a stage for any and all.”
The fun started last Wednesday at 5:30p.m. in room 121 of the Performing Arts Center and continues every other Wednesday for the rest of the semester.