Diaries. Valentines. And yes, shadow puppets. Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women™ is returning to Minneapolis by popular demand to play Hennepin Theatre Trust’s New Century Theatre beginning Wednesday, January 18. Part sketch comedy, part purse raiding improvisation (you’ll have to check out the show to know what we mean by that), this evening of hilarity celebrates the fairer sex in a unique examination of all things girly. Local actress Nicole Fenstad, one of the stars of the show, chatted with us about what makes Girls Only such a hit.
Q. So this is your second year as part of the Girls Only cast – and Hennepin Theatre Trust is bringing it back because it’s so popular – why do you think it has such an appeal to audiences?
Because every woman can relate to at least one universal “girl” theme in it. Whether you kept a diary, or memory box, or you’ve been through puberty or menopause. We all share in this secret comedy of womanhood. It’s about finding the funny in being a woman and celebrating who we are through laughter. I would say the number one thing that I hear women say is, “Thank you for tonight, I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.” And to me, that is such a gift that Melanie and I get to give the audience. It is truly one of my absolute favorite shows that I have ever done and that is because it is like giving people laughter as medicine. How awesome is that?
Q. Even though it was written by the two “original girls” based on stories from their girlhood diaries, what have you done to make it your own show?
I think one of the brilliant and beautiful things about this show is that it wasn’t written for us to play the characters just like the writers. In the show we are just us. We never feel like we are playing Barbara Gehring or Linda Klein. Melanie and I call each other by our names so we are not trying to be someone that we are not. So even though the script isn’t exactly about our lives, I can certainly relate to the same experience of feeling like a dork in school or having a bad hair day. I went through all of that too, so the more I am comfortable just being me up there, the more that audience gets the truthfulness of Girls Only.
Q. When you do the improvisation part – what is one of the most funny stories/experiences that have come out of it?
So without giving anything away, I will just say, there is section of the show where we do an improvisation based on an item from the audience. We never plan it, we just go with the flow. One time an audience member had a flask with her and it caught us completely off guard and we just went with the improv and the audience had a hay day. I did actually taste it and it was indeed some raspberry vodka. The thing that we are always very conscious of is to never embarrass anyone in the audience. This show is not like that at all. We celebrate and honor women and that is a big mantra for us.
Q. Last year, the show ran in Hennepin Stages (now Brave New Workshop). This year, it will be in the New Century Theatre in City Center that just opened in September. Are you looking forward to doing it in a different/new space? How do you think it might change or affect the show – or audience?
The space is beautiful! If you are not familiar with where it is, it’s located inside City Center. If you walk in where Marshalls is off Nicollet Avenue and go straight, it will be on your left. It is a brand new space and it’s a little bit bigger but it will generally be set up the same with tables and chairs, so that women may have cocktails with their friends. It’s still very intimate which is great for this show, as it’s set up like everyone is coming into our bedroom for a big pink slumber party! This theatre has a little bit more symmetry as compared to the shape of this last stage so I think it’s only going to be better.
Q. So it’s a show that appeals mostly to women but there are a few enlightened men who attend – what should they be prepared to experience and why would they like it?
So yes, it is definitely a show that appeals mostly to women. And I will tell you that when the audience is entirely women there is a certain camaraderie among all of us that is truly special. I think women feel like they can really let down their hair and just unabashedly laugh and enjoy the show. With that being said, men are certainly welcome to come to the show and we have had brave men come on out with their wives or girlfriends and I think that is awesome. I am very proud to say that this show is not about male bashing. We may poke light fun at men, but it’s never in a mean or malicious way. The writers are very respectful. In some ways, I feel like all men should see it, because it truly gives them a window to see their wife or girlfriend through and they will definitely learn something along the way.
Thanks to Nicole Fenstad for participating in our Q&A. Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women™ runs January 18-March 18 at the New Century Theatre. For tickets or show information, please visit our website.