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Former midwife switches from audience member to actor

Monday, July 20, 2009 | 5:11 p.m. CDT; updated 6:50 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 20, 2009
No Content member Shannon Kirk, left, and DeeDee Folkerts work their way through a series of improvised scenes with the help of a Styrofoam prop. Every new attempt to make the audience laugh is a new risk, but most succeed in the end. “You could fall flat on your face, literally,” Folkerts said, “and that might be funny.”

COLUMBIA — It’s common practice in improvisational comedy to take suggestions from the audience. But No Content, a 10-person troupe based in Columbia, goes one step beyond, as DeeDee Folkerts can attest.

Folkerts, 36, is the comedy group’s newest member. After attending an improv performance with her two daughters in late 2008, she decided she wanted to play a more active role in No Content’s content.

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“I asked if I could join and they said, ‘Sure, show up!’” Folkerts said.

Joining No Content was Folkerts’ first step into the Columbia theater scene. Having spent the past 13 years working as a midwife in Boone County — “My kids have never known me when I’m not on call" — she decided to pursue a different path in order to spend more time with her family and to overcome a feeling of burnout.

“It’s sad, but it’s invigorating,” she said. “I get to explore so much more.”

Although Folkerts’ only recently made the switch, she has wasted no time in pursuing her new career path. She is currently performing with Theater NXS in a production of George F. Walker’s "Adult Entertainment." Earlier this summer she made weekly trips to Centralia to be a part of the Centralia Community Theater’s "Steel Magnolias." Folkerts is also a founding member of 5th Wall Productions, one of the newer theater companies in Columbia.

With all the scripted acting Folkerts is doing, her involvement with No Content stands out. Being part of the troupe has been a good exercise, she says, as the quick wit and think-on-your-feet mentality needed to succeed in improv are valuable skills for scripted actors as well.

During a June 6 show at the Cherry Street Artisan, for example, Folkerts and fellow troupe member Shannon Kirk created several distinct scenarios using only half of a Styrofoam ball as a prop. In one set, Kirk wore the globe as a hat; in the next, Folkerts placed the prop onstage and pretended to tee off.

The constant pressure to make the audience laugh can be nerve-wracking, Folkerts said. Not all skits work out as intended.

“But even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good,” she said.


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