This year, Penn’s all-female musical-and-sketch comedy group turns 40.
Bloomers was founded in 1978, becoming the nation’s first all-women’s collegiate musical comedy troupe, ushering in an era of women succeeding in a scene once entirely dominated by men. The group was named after the 19th century women’s rights figure, Amelia Jenks Bloomers, who advocated for liberating dress reform for women. At the center of her movement were a pair of loose-fitting trousers. Bloomers sought to replace the uncomfortable and impractical petticoats women were expected to wear under their dresses at the time with these “bloomers.”
“We’re only able to be the Bloomers we are today because we stood on their shoulders.”
The women of Penn saw the need for their own comedic space on campus, and they ended up establishing a tradition that would persist for years to come. Offering college women nationwide the opportunity to take the stage, presenting their own stories through one of the most powerful (and entertaining) art forms, Bloomers’ impact has been undeniable.
This Family Weekend, the Bloomers of 2018 will be performing in their Fall production: Bloomers Presents… The Bachelor: Will You Accept This Show?. There will be an all-day anniversary celebration on Sunday for all Bloomers alumnae (better known as “Girdles”) who will be attending that night’s special performance (and joining-in on pre-show rituals). Bloomers reunions are also being planned in other cities around the states, such as New York City and Los Angeles.
Bloomers Chair Lauren Sorantino has been hard at work in preparation for the special event. “The planning prompted me to pause and reflect on Bloomers’ fascinating history and recognize the groundwork our bold, impressive alumnae laid for this group. We’re only able to be the Bloomers we are today because we stood on their shoulders,” she said. “I’m so grateful we’ve grown to have a distinct and meaningful presence on Penn’s campus because women’s voices in comedy are more important now than ever before.”
Being able to work in a group with such hardworking, talented, and empowered women has taught me more about taking risks, avoiding comfort zones, and pushing boundaries, than I ever could have imagined at the start of my freshman year. One moment in particular has stuck with me. Sydnee Washington, a New York-based stand up comedian led a workshop during this year’s LaughtHERfest festivities. The event brought together all-female comedy troupes from Philadelphia and New Haven colleges for a day of expert-led workshops, performances, and—of course—laughter. During a question and answer session with Washington, the performer was asked how she dealt with the initial insecurities of beginning a career in comedy as a female. She said it was unfortunate that so many women didn’t perceive themselves as “funny.” She said that little girls are raised under so much pressure to be smart, kind, pretty, and polite, that “funny” takes a backseat. So many women are hesitant to call themselves “funny” because it was never something they were taught they could be. Washington takes pride in the honesty of her humor, finding the funny in her life, and confidently sharing it with her audiences.
As my first production with the company approaches, I am thankful for the trailblazers of 1978 and the incredible women of Bloomers 2018 for creating and maintaining this space on campus.
Come spend some time laughing with us the weekend of October 18 at the Iron Gate Theater!