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Keenan prepares for annual Revue

| Thursday, February 7, 2019

Photo courtesy of Kevin Conway
Dorm members perform a sketch in the 42nd annual Keenan Revue held in 2018. The show features student writing and performances.

Since school has been back in session, the men of Keenan Hall have been hard at work on their 43rd annual Revue: “Revueda Triangle: A Conspiracy Revue.”

None are more involved than director George Redgrave and producer Kevin Conway, seniors who have been part of the Revue for the past three years. But as their staff of about 25 works throughout the year to write the skits, promote the event and plan the logistics, the production is really the product of everyone in Keenan.

“We’re lucky because our names get to be on the programs, but really, it’s everyone else that does it,” said sophomore Billy McKee, one of the staff’s four head writers.

McKee — along with seniors John Horlander, Henry Mulholland and junior Grayson Maker, the other three head writers — spent months not only writing skits, but also helping other guys in Kennan draft their own skits, which are then performed at auditions the first weekend of the semester.

“We say that the best way to get in to the Revue is to write your way in,” Conway said. “If you write a skit and it makes it, you get to choose your actors. That’s kind of the great part about the Revue within Keenan … If a freshman writes a really great skit, the seniors aren’t just going to take it and say, ‘Hey, thanks for that great skit, now all of our friends are in it.’”

This year’s show consists of roughly half staff-written skits and half dorm-written skits, all of which are funny, Conway said. As proof, he said they exceeded their goal of 75 minutes of skit time by 10 minutes, because they didn’t want to cut anything too good out. This contrasts with last year, when they decided to keep the show at 68 minutes so as to not add mediocre skits for the sake of a time limit.

“We typically have three tiers of skits,” Conway said. “There are really good skits, that, the first time they’re tried out, we say, ‘Wow, this is great. We don’t want to touch it because you’re probably funnier than we are, and we don’t want to ruin it.’ And then there’s the next level down, which is, ‘This is a really good skit, it could make it in to the show, but we’re going to work on it.’ And then there are the average skits to sub-par skits that we say, ‘It’s not going to make it, but you had one or two good lines, and we’re going to rip that and put it in to the show.‘”

“And then the fourth level is: ‘I can’t believe you said that out loud,’” McKee said.

The Revue has a history of crossing the line between comedy and controversy, which is something the staff has tried to address in recent years.

“One of the ways that we show that is during our second round of skit tryouts, we have representative from different clubs come to the skit tryout, and we ask them what they think,” McKee said. “We never want to do anything that’s going to make people feel alienated.”

But then again, while their jokes remain in good humor, they say that anyone can be a target.

“No one’s safe in the Revue,” McKee said. “Not even us. We come at ourselves a lot.”

Despite the massive scale of the production, the team keeps their goals relatively humble. When asked what a successful Keenan Revue looks like, Conway said he hopes that at least a quarter of the audience laughs, and Redgrave said he just doesn’t want people to get up and leave midway through the show.

“I think the goal ends up being just to give everyone a chance to laugh at themselves,” McKee said.

In addition to allowing the residents of Keenan to make fun of themselves, the Revue provides a platform to showcase their talents.

“It’s still a dorm event and it’s amazing to see that person who’s on, say, a completely different floor, you see them a couple times, you nod, but then you see them onstage and they’re singing and you’re like, ‘Wow, this guy has an amazing voice and they’re just showcasing their talents,‘” Redgrave said. “That’s one of the best things — being able to get involved with so many people.”

Through the Revue, residents of Keenan establish friendships across grades that last even when they no longer live in the dorm.

“I made a lot of great friends as a freshman. Looking up, there’s a lot of guys who are a year older than us that I’m really good friends with because of that,” Conway said. “But now, as an off-campus senior, if it wasn’t for the Revue, I think I would only know about one freshman … Because of the Revue, I know probably 30 different freshmen, and almost all the sophomores I’ve been able to stay closer with. It connects you to the alumni that you never overlapped with.”

The Revue connects Keenan not only with each other, but also with everyone else on campus.

“I look forward to the one time of the year in late-January, early-February where that girl I haven’t talked to in about a year says, ‘Oh my gosh, Kevin, how are you? Hey, any chance that we can be best friends and I can get some Keenan Revue tickets from you?’” Conway said. “It happens every year and I always say yes.”

They appreciate the large scale of the Revue not necessarily for the popularity, but because it brings the entire community together to laugh.

“It’s about Keenan, but it’s also about Notre Dame. We want to make it something that can be positive for the University,” Redgrave said. “We want it to be something that the whole community can be a part of. It’s definitely a really big thing that we take pride in … that we can really bring Notre Dame together to laugh at ourselves and other issues on campus that lighten up the mood in the middle of a South Bend February.”

Because of their mission of solidarity, tickets to the Revue are always free.

“Tickets are free, but one thing we love doing is having our involvement with Dismas House, which Keenan has been involved with for almost 40 years. It’s the halfway house in South Bend sort of helping ex-convicts reintegrate themselves into the community,” Redgrave said. “And so, one thing that we have done in recent years is sort of said that ‘if you enjoy the show, we’d appreciate if you donate to Dismas House.’”

Though they wouldn’t spoil any jokes from the show, McKee did tease the title of the first skit: “Caught in the Act.”

“I guess everyone’s just going to need to come to the show to find out what it is,” he said.

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