An aspiring actress, comedian and writer keeps the campus laughing.
Los Angeles native Natalie Margolin ’14 could have stayed in her hometown in hopes of fulfilling her dream of becoming an actress, but she came to Kenyon, where she’s been a member of the improvisation comedy group Fools on the Hill for four years. The drama major performs in three improv shows a semester and teaches improvisation workshops twice a month. Margolin has earned a reputation as one of the funniest women at Kenyon. She’s already started building her professional resume with a summer internship at Warner Brothers.
Tell us about your earliest experience on the stage.
I initially wanted to be a ballet dancer, but I pooped in my tutu during my first recital so that dream ended before it really had the chance to begin. I was three years old.
Can you share a memorable audition experience?
In my junior year I auditioned for a senior thesis production and got a callback. The ladies were asked to prepare a short song. I was nervous because I really can’t sing. I arrive and notice that all the girls surrounding me are in a cappella groups. This shakes me a little. One girl sings “Amazing Grace,” one belts out “There are Worse Things I Could Do,” and another performs an Adele song that brings the room to tears. Then it’s my turn. I stand up and sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” I sing it through once but feel it is a bit short compared to the other songs, so I sing it one more time. I did not get cast.
Does performing cause you anxiety?
When I am performing in plays, I feel more excitement than anxiety. Performing in improv shows is a different story. Improv can be scary. I definitely find myself feeling anxious before a Fools on the Hill show. Improv is a lot like sports in that you learn and practice a set of skills, but every show/game is different—some good, some bad—even if you play well. “Improv rehearsal” can be a misleading term. It really is more of a “practice” because we are a team. My anxiety calms when I remember that there are elements we can control: listening to each other, trusting each other and having fun. You can’t rely on a script, so you must rely on your teammates.
Are there professional comics who inspire you?
Will Ferrell. Elf is the best movie. He commits to playing a man-boy with such honesty, and the comedy in that film has such heart. I also love Rebel Wilson. She has a similar fearlessness, which I greatly admire and find captivating.
How have you grown as a writer at Kenyon? Are there professors who have had an impact on you?
Definitely. I did not think of myself as a writer before coming to Kenyon. At the start of my freshman year, when I heard there was a playwriting component to the introduction to theater class, I considered not taking it because I was so uncertain of my writing abilities. Now I am writing a play for my senior thesis. My playwriting teacher, Wendy MacLeod ’81, has helped and supported me. It is rare for a teacher to create an environment in which students feel safe to share their personal work and feel motivated by criticism rather than defeated by it.
Where do you get the inspiration for your material?
The Cove (but actually).
What’s your dream career after Kenyon?
My dream job is to be able to write and act professionally. I would love to be involved in arts education or drama therapy. Being on Saturday Night Live would be another dream come true.
Is it odd to move from Los Angeles, an entertainment mecca, to study theater in the middle of a corn field?
Very odd. But then you remember that in Los Angeles there are probably over 100 improv shows happening in Hollywood on any given night, with an audience of five to maybe thirty-five people. But in Gambier, there is one improv show happening in Ascension with a packed house. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be here for anything.
Was there a moment when you thought you had to stay in California to make it in the industry?
Many moments. But as a writer, or a comedian, or just a young person trying to think of good stories to tell, I can’t imagine a place richer in stories than a campus of 1,600 hormonal students isolated atop a hill. To make it in the industry, I believe you have to have a distinct voice and perspective to bring to the table. I want to write a TV show about pulling all-nighters in Gund Ballroom or perhaps a mini-series about Sunday mornings in the Peirce servery. The subtext one can mine between two students waiting in line to order an omelet is unprecedented.
Performing has to be tough, but what’s it like to perform in front of people you see every day on Middle Path and in the dining hall?
After a Fools show my junior year, I was feeling really awful because I felt off my game. But then I remembered that I was a twenty-one-year-old girl in her college improv group who had an off-night and that I would be okay. I care more than the audience does. Sometimes people come up to me and say, “Do some improv!” “Be funny!” “Tell me a joke!” and I get nervous because I have a shy streak. When this happens, I usually laugh and say something awkward like, “Oh, ahhh,” and then walk away.