Four women stand on a makeshift stage, the only clue to the setting are the words “Metro car” written on an easel. Taped to their clothing are tags: police officer, Metro driver, Passenger #1, Passenger #2. The Metro car is stuck on the tracks and the passengers, one of whom is pregnant, are panicking.
“It could happen. Sometimes, they’re born early. It could happen, it could totally happen,” one passenger says to the other. She’s interrupted by the Metro driver breaking into song.
Some 40 women squeezed into the Bump n’ Grind coffee shop in Silver Spring on Monday for a night of
improv. Not watching, but performing. Dubbed “Healthy Hilarity,” the point of the exercise was to develop skills the women could apply to their real lives, according to Ariele Mortkowitz, founder of the Svivah women’s group.
“Improv is something where you have to trust,” she said. “It’s another awesome way that’s fun to connect with one another.”
The services offered by other organizations were integrated into several of the improvs. In one, Melissa Rosen, the director of national outreach for Sharsheret, which provides testing for breast cancer, tries to convince Mortkowitz to spit in a vial.
“First of all, you tell me that I spit too much,” Mortkowitz says, causing bursts of laughter. They continue to argue until Mortkowitz is talking about how she ate too much cheesecake during Shavuot.
The evening began with warm-up exercises: pretending to be exasperated teenage girls, old women, and narcissisticmen at a cocktail party.
Some of the situations were realistic: a mother and teenage daughter arguing and a scene in a delivery room. Others were fantastical, like a tooth fairy convention and an English class analyzing Dr. Seuss. Each had a twist: The women had to pick lines out of a bag, or they were given particular personality traits.
“I love seeing this other side of people,” Mortkowitz said.
Participant Caryn Moshinsky, who has taken improv classes before, thought the night offered a way to deal with complicated situations by allowing those on stage to take on different personas than they normally inhabit.
“We can access parts of our personalities that are just never given the same
opportunity to shine,” she said.
Moshinsky said a scene in which she portrayed an arguing spouse was her favorite.
“I loved being a fighting spouse,” she said, adding that the scene was a way to deal with a common situation with laughter, as well as get out her frustrations.
For Leah Fleischer, it was a fun night of entertainment. She said she enjoyed her role as Tooth Fairy #4: The Old-Timer.
“There was a really nice sense of sisterhood,” she said.