Second City alumna Tina Fey hosted the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL) last Saturday, now in its 39th season. As she introduced the six new cast members, it was hard not to notice one detail – all of them are white, and only one is female.
Following the episode, media outlets raised questions about the show’s absence of color. In an interview with theGrio, Jay Pharoah, one of the two black cast members, shared his opinion that SNL should be more diverse, and could start by hiring a black woman.
Niccole Thurman, a biracial actress, singer and improviser based in Chicago, can relate. Featured in “What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell You: A Chicago Review” at The Second City’s UP Comedy Club, Thurman says it is noticeable when a multiracial society isn’t reflected onstage.
“It can be challenging to be a woman in comedy, it can be challenging to be a minority in comedy,” she said. “My parents are black & white – why can’t we represent that onstage or onscreen?”
There should be more diversity in theater, Thurman says, but not solely in an attempt to fill a quota. Drawn to roles that allow her to highlight a person’s imperfections, she says she embraces her differences and believes they help her stand out when she auditions.
VIENNA, 1918 – A young woman arrives late to her music lesson and is immediately scolded by her cantankerous music teacher, who she secretly loves. As he lectures her on the importance of being punctual, she slowly removes her broken violin from its case in preparation for the lesson.
Blind, the music teacher doesn’t know her instrument is ruined until she attempts to play. He quickly catches on, and also begins to see that she is in love with him. “He’s like my salami – a mystery inside,” she sings sweetly, drawing the bow delicately across the violin’s severed strings. “Play on, my love!” he belts out, revealing his mutual affection.
The Second City’s 101st Revue, “Let Them Eat Chaos,” is filled with humorous yet unexpectedly sentimental sketches like these. Played by Ross Bryant and Nicole C. Hastings (filling the roles normally played by Holly Laurent), the Austrian teacher and student are just one odd couple among many used to illustrate the show’s running theme, “you’re always someone to someone.”
“Let Them Eat Chaos” opens with the entire cast – Bryant, Hastings, Edgar Blackmon, Steve Waltien, Niccole Thurman (in the role normally performed by Tawny Newsome) and Chelsea Devantez (her role is normally played by Katie Rich) – appearing onstage and taking a suggestion from the audience. An audience member shouts “turtle,” and the ensemble immediately begins to improvise scenes revolving around the word. From this point on, the actors segue seamlessly from one sketch to another.