Myth and fact can be hard to disentangle when it comes to Valley Forge.
It’s true that Gen. George Washington celebrated his first ceremonial commander-in-chief birthday at the encampment on Feb. 27, 1778, but did he really rally his troops to survive a brutal winter, or was the weather in ’77-'78 actually rather mild?
Did Washington kneel in the snow and pray for the deliverance of his Continental Army, or was that a postwar invention of folklorist Mason Weems?
For comedian Molly Clark, who grew up in nearby Devon, the questions are more basic.
What was it like to kiss a guy with wooden teeth?
So wonders Washington’s wife, Martha, in Clark’s comedy short The Women of Valley Forge, which has just won a slot at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, which Clark will attend next month.
The short film has Clark at Valley Forge National Historical Park, playing Martha, Abigail Adams and Betsy Ross, riffing on life during colonial times from a woman’s perspective. In the film, which she’s posted on Vimeo, Clark gives voice (sometimes in a Rocky Balboa accent) to Martha, et al, in a way that history does not record, because Clark made it all up.
“I just went out with a tripod and improvised the whole thing,” said Clark, who made Women of Valley Forge as part of her senior year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“The biggest trouble I had was people thought I was a reenactor. They kept coming up to me and wanting a picture.”
Clark grew up in Chester County, where she attended “every school but Valley Forge Military Academy,” trying to find the right fit, finally locating it at Agnes Irwin, which gave her creative space to indulge her interest in making videos and performing.
She spent a summer at an improv “camp” at Second City in Chicago, and fell in love with it, and immediately set to work doing guerrilla comedy back home.
“I wore a costume and went to the Whole Foods in Devon and pretended to be hot dog. People were cracking up, all the employees got involved, and that was the thrill that I keep on seeking. I always wanted to get back to being the girl in the hot dog suit,” said Clark, who made Girl in the Hot Dog Suit LLC the name of her fledgling comedy production company.
The inspiration for her interest in comedy can be traced back even further, to a chance meeting with Upper Darby native Tina Fey.
Clark, still in middle school, was attending a taping of the Ellen DeGeneres talk show in Los Angeles, nosing around her hotel when she poked her head in a conference room and saw Fey alone and putting her signature to a stack of Bossypants books.
“I have a magazine that’s signed by her and it’s framed above my bed. It says: ‘next year will be awesome, love, Tina Fey,’" Clark said. "It’s always relevant, because you always hope next year will be awesome.”
Clark has worked hard to make that prophecy come true, hustling to get internships at the The Late Show With Jimmy Fallon and the production company responsible for Broad City, where she was a gofer while Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson worked on the fifth season.
“A late night talk show is this big machine, and it’s a machine that never stops moving,” said Clark, who did a little of everything, including keeping the green room stocked for visiting celebrities. The production of Broad City was more intimate, though not so intimate Clark had much time to rub elbows with Wayne native Jacobson.
“I brought milk once in to the writers’ rooms where they were working, and I tried to make a milk joke, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t remember it.”
Clark chose NYU so she could also complete the curriculum at the New York branch of the Upright Citizens Brigade, supervised by another comedy idol, Amy Poehler.
“[Fey and Poehler] are two of the women I really admire. They have that warm, funny voice,” she said. “It’s so easy to be slapstick, or blue, but the women I look up to do really smart comedy, and if I can find any way of continuing that tradition, I hope to.”