Name: Reagan Bracknell
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Major: Modern Middle Eastern Studies; Legal Studies & History minor
Activities: Chair of Bloomers Comedy, Company Commander in the Naval ROTC, Member of the Nominations and Elections Committee, Kite and Key, Friars Senior Society, and Osiris Senior Society
Street: Can you tell me how you got involved with Bloomers? Have you always been interested in comedy?
RB: No, I haven’t always been interested in comedy. Bloomers kind of fell into my lap in a way. I was in a middle school chorus, so if you ask my parents I was a child performer but that was pretty much it leading up to Penn. It was part of my middle school life but I never really considered myself a performer...when I came to Penn, I came across Bloomers in a number of ways—I went to the Mask and Wig free show and heard about them there and I heard about them at the SAC Fair. I thought if I want to stick with trying something outside of my comfort zone, there’s nothing more outside of my comfort zone than being on a stage and being in comedy and doing something different than everything I’ve done in my life. I wanted to be in a group with empowering women as well. All of the aspects of Bloomers appealed to me and luckily they thought I was a good fit.
Street: What’s it been like to be part of Bloomers?
RB: Bloomers has been the greatest part of my Penn experience. I never thought coming into college that being a part of a performing arts group would be the quintessential experience of college for me and it has become that. It’s become my greatest sense of community. I’m surrounded by people who make me want to be better, make me want to be funnier, make me want to be kinder…There’s something so special about being a part of a group whose sole goal is to make people laugh.
Street: What’s it been like to lead Bloomers completely remotely? What have you turned your energy toward?
RB: A challenge in a word. We’re a group that does one show each semester and our audience is usually groups that come to the show: sororities, fraternities, sports teams. It’s been difficult to change from writing comedy for those groups to writing comedy for a digital format...people have short attention spans when it comes to technology. Where on a stage something that was 5 minutes long worked really, really well, on a computer or phone screen it doesn’t translate as well. We’ve had to shorten our comedy and make sure we’re getting to the point and being really witty, really quickly. Also, we’re expanding to other platforms—we’ve started doing “Tag Yourself” memes on Instagram, online quizzes, and tweets. We’re challenging what we thought it meant to be a Bloomer.
Street: What’s been your most memorable experience as a part of Bloomers?
RB: Every year my ROTC friends come to my show and they bring a very different level of energy than the rest of the crowd. It’s a group of like ten crazy loud dudes as opposed to all the sorority girls and student government people so they bring a different energy to the show. In my junior fall, I was the Cast Director and directed the show. I did a bit by myself on stage and in the middle of the bit, one of my friends who was sitting in one of the front two rows made a fart noise with their mouth. I just broke. I’m usually really good about staying in character, but this just got me because the whole point of the bit was that it was about pooping and farting and literally at that moment I could not stop laughing. I thought I was going to be really embarrassed, but the whole audience rallied around me. They were yelling, “YEAH this is CRAZY! Keep going, keep going!” I think it was just so fun because it placed ROTC in the performing arts and it was just a funny experience. We got it on tape and I was red and I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.
Street: You’re also a member of the Naval ROTC program. What motivated you to join the Naval ROTC? How has this program shaped your college experience?
RB: I’m a military kid. My dad was a Marine, so I always had ingrained in me this sense of duty and service. It wasn’t until late in high school that I was like maybe military service is something I really want to do. It combined my interests in Middle Eastern politics, law, ethics, and languages. If you have interests in those things, the military is a unique outlet to combine them all and also have the opportunity to serve your country...in the Naval ROTC, there’s a good balance between physical and academic excellence and making sure that you challenge yourself...The scholarship also helped with the decision...it’s definitely helpful to have that sense of financial security. [ROTC] has been great to have as a counter to the rest of Penn’s culture at a place where everything is so pre–professional and competitive. It’s been nice to know that I have a job lined up after graduation and I know what I’m doing for the next five years. It’s been good having that sense of security, so that I can make my Penn experience what I want it to be instead of thinking about how am I going to get a job or am I going to get an internship? When you have that external motivator like ROTC it’s a good motivator to remember that it’s not just about me and my success, this is about my ability to be a leader, it’s about my ability to be knowledgeable about what I’m doing. The people I’ve met are my family. I was talking to my friend the other day and I was saying if I were to date somebody I’d be more nervous to bring them to my ROTC friends than to my actual family.
Street: What’s been the most rewarding part of your ROTC experience?
RB: Being in ROTC feels like we’re living a secret, double–life. We’re very normal students during the day, but then in the morning—every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—we’re up super early and training and doing all of this stuff that nobody really knows about. Nobody really knows we have an ROTC program at Penn. At other schools, Penn State, southern schools, ROTC programs are a really big part of the culture of the school and they get a lot of publicity. I think something that’s been really rewarding is that by being a very active member of the Penn community and also in ROTC, I’ve had the opportunity to share our experiences. You see ROTC students as being this one rigid stereotype of a military person, but hey, there are also these other types of people. You have people like me who are in performing arts and do comedy. Even if I’m only changing ten people’s minds about ROTC or one person’s mind, it’s been cool to have that as my Penn experience.
Street: Can you tell me about what you’re studying at Penn and how that ties into your interests?
RB: I'll talk about Modern Middle Eastern studies for hours on end. I think it’s the greatest major at Penn. Modern Middle Eastern Studies focuses on the Middle East as a region from a modern standpoint and the interesting part of that is that no one really knows what modernity is. Half the battle has been figuring out what modern even means in the context of the Middle East. It’s a really well–rounded major with history, political science, and international relations classes. There’s a language component, so I took Arabic for four semesters. It’s super well–rounded because it’s not just providing you a view of the Middle East that’s exclusively on history or conflicts or politics—you get a lot of context for what’s happening right now from different lenses. I wanted to be an Arabic major, but Penn doesn’t have that so this was the closest thing that I could get to it and I am so glad I came across it. It’s a very small major. I only know two other seniors who are in it. There might be others but I’m not positive.
Street: What’s next for you after Penn?
RB: The same week as graduation actually I’ll be commissioning into the Navy. So this summer I’ll be heading off on my first Division tour on a ship that is yet to be decided. In February, I’ll be deciding what ship and home–port I’ll be going to. It's somewhat undecided, but I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll be doing in the next five years which is exciting.
Street: Last song that you listened to?
RB: "Everybody's Lonely" by Jukebox the Ghost
Street: What’s something that people wouldn’t guess about you?
RB: I have hidden tattoos.
Street: If you were a building on campus, which one would you be and why?
RB: Commons. You have so much to do there—you have Commons, Stommons, and the Amazon at Penn. There’s a lot of different little things that happen there. You never go to Commons and have a bad time.
Street: Any hobbies you picked up in quarantine?
RB: I got really into french–pressed coffee.
Street: Any pre–show rituals or superstitions?
RB: I drink my body–weight in throat–coat tea. It’s my saving grace, but it’s not fun.
Street: Favorite comedian?
RB: Nick Kroll
Street: There are two types of people at Penn…
RB: Those who are upset that Van Pelt isn’t open and those who are upset that Pottruck isn’t open.
Street: And you are?
RB: I’m upset about Pottruck.