Cincinnati's Alphas Comedy Troupe Empowers Women Through Creativity

The troupe’s intended goal, among others, is to make people feel joy.

click to enlarge Alphas performing their "Femspector Gadget" comedy sketch routine - Photo: Provided by Alphas
Photo: Provided by Alphas
Alphas performing their "Femspector Gadget" comedy sketch routine

Just as we celebrate shopping local, we also should prioritize laughing local — that’s where the comedy troupe Alphas can help.

The all-women group performs an original variety show every month at Clifton Comedy Theatre and say they’ve sold out every performance in their half-year together.

Alphas was founded by director Patricia Mullins and consists of 21 local writers and performers, all of whom identify as women. Each month’s shows center around specific themes; August’s focused on spies, and the most recent performance concentrated on time travel. Generally, an Alphas show features improv comedy along with original sketches written by the group, musical numbers, stand-up comedy and even the occasional choreographed dance.

“Doing Alphas is my joy bucket,” says writer/performer Mary O’Connell. “I look forward to it and I need it, because I need to create and write and perform. I write for a living, but nothing that I want to write about – grant-writing stuff. This offers me a great outlet to do it, and I love doing it with all women. It’s such a refreshing change.”

Clifton Comedy Theatre is a hopping spot on Saturday nights when an Alphas show is about to start. Stepping into the subterranean performance space right off Ludlow Avenue in the Gaslight District, audience members enter a modest, intimate row of tiered seating facing the stage, which is ground level and unseparated from the front row. A drink is on the house with a ticket purchase (tips/donations welcome), and the show is about an hour long.

During a recent performance, one of the most delightful sketches asked what you would do if you could travel through time if you’re, say, a bit narcissistic. Would you want to meet your former or future self? What would you do with the other self in that case? Minds can’t help but wander a bit perversely to see where this was going: when a woman meets herself, she likes what she sees.

That illustrates the kinds of humor achieved by Alphas: raunchy, subverted, yet not overly nihilistic. Everything is meant to empower women, no matter how silly. At the end of the show, everybody in the audience laughed hard and could find something to like.

The troupe’s intended goal, among others, is to make people feel joy. What they – as women who empower themselves through their creativity – say they get in exchange is an inclusive community of a diverse range. Thanks to the stage they’ve set, their voices are amplified and, at the same time, they’re able to collaborate with real professionals in the performing arts industry.

Alphas members say Mullins deserves much of the credit.

“Allow me to sing the praises of Patricia Mullins for a moment, who pretty much single-handedly produces, directs and gives us feedback on our sketches,” writer/performer Tatiana Godfrey says. “The way that rehearsals are structured, it’s very easy entry for everybody who’s involved, so welcoming. Really, that’s all because of Patricia’s work.”

Godfrey has a master’s of fine arts in dramaturgy and works as literary manager at Playhouse in the Park. Even though she has a full-time job, as many of the performers do, she says she juggles her hours for projects that inspire the passion needed for these kinds of performances.

Empowerment is a big overall theme with Alphas, which even is reflected in the group’s name itself. The term “alpha” historically has referred to men in popular vernacular. An adjective whose meaning in this application is defined as “socially dominant, especially in a group of animals,” has no specific gender and can also be embraced by women is important.

“I was listening to NPR and heard a story where they referenced ‘alpha females,’ and it was like a lightning bolt to me that the show I was putting together should be called ‘Alphas,’” Mullins says. “It felt like a powerful name to give our show and ourselves, to jumpstart this new thing we were doing together – because it’s the name of the show, but it’s also each of us individually.”

“We call each other ‘alphas,’ and I can say that just from my own experience, it makes me more confident in every situation I go into now, to think of myself as an ‘alpha,’” she adds.

Alphas perform regularly at Clifton Comedy Theatre, with “Alphas in Hell” scheduled for Oct. 22. Info: improvcincinnati.com.


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