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Marian Halls, cast member with Monkey Business Institute

Meet Marian

Meet Marian, cast member since 2016 and regular performer at Yes Ma’am, MBI’s Improv Lab show of, for, and by women. Off stage, Marian is a teacher of teachable things, a writer of words, and a resolute believer in The Princess Bride being a true story. Learn more about Marian below, including how she came to be a cast member, her thoughts on improv comedy, and projects in which she’s involved.

How did you get involved with MBI?

Grad school ennui found me in pursuit of other talents. In 2013, I was teaching and working on my dissertation, but all the time spent working alone was sapping my motivation. Craving a change, I signed up for as many new extracurricular activities as I could find: pottery, planning a trip to Burning Man, telling off inconsiderate neighbors in my sleep, and MBI’s Level 1 class with John Steeno. Improv was the one that stuck (and is at least partially responsible for my finished dissertation, too).

What got you hooked on improv?

I find that improv challenges me in an area completely separate from work and career. I love collaborating with other people and coming up with weird, funny stories together. Improv’s my emotional cardio –– it works out and stretches my emotional skills and muscles. I do it for those magical moments on stage where everything comes together and the audience is with you and the room erupts in pure joy.

Why is improv important to you?

I’m drawn to improv for how it is therapeutic and transformational, for the audience and for those of us who perform, both because it can be laughter-inducing, and because it is boundary-pushing and forces us to explore our own limits. I also think it can be culturally and socially transformative! Personally, improv gives me an outlet to be creative and make beautiful things in a challenging world.

What is one principle of improv that has affected your life?

Being fearless, making bold choices, and committing unapologetically. Doing so leads to the most joy in improv, and it’s pretty hard to do good improv without it. In life, trusting and believing that bringing the most honest, fearless, and committed version of myself is always going to be the best received, and is always worth it, has pushed me to to act boldly and from my intuition––to take risks I wouldn’t otherwise take. And that’s had a hugely positive impact on my life!

What gives you a sense of pride?

Writing, teaching, and thinking about literature and culture. My most formative performances have been in the classroom, where I’ve refereed conversations on monsters in literature, heroines in ancient Greece, storytellers in West Africa, gender in advertising, fantasy in science fiction, and race in America. I care immensely about people, I’m insatiably curious, and I love anything that is beautiful, expressive, or creative.

Wanna plug any projects?

I just finished a PhD from UW-Madison’s Department of Comparative Literature, studying social movements, literature, music, and visual culture in the U.S., Latin America, and Israel. In 2017 I was part of the cast of Queer Shorts! I’ve also written some fiction and some comedy sketches.

You kind find out more about my work by visiting