Journalism is one of those careers that fosters in some of its professionals the secret, deeply held fear that you’re a charlatan and one day you’ll be found out. So when Washington Improv Theater asked me to appear on stage to give an interview that would provide material for an improv show, my first reaction was that this was perhaps a test. Against any inclinations toward self-preservation—and suppressing my profound stage fright and anxiety under any kind of attention—I agreed to participate.
The October Issue is a structured evening of improv on the theme of women’s magazines, running through Oct. 10 as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival.
The questions, of course, were easy, but I managed to flub most of them. “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for a story?” I couldn’t call to mind the time I threw my shoes into the bushes to run after Prince Charles, but instead Zoe Barnes-ed it and mentioned how I went on a date with someone I didn’t like because I needed some sources. Cringe.
So it’s a testament to the talents of the women who were improvising scenes that night that things went as hilariously as they did. As in any improv performance, a few of the jokes were retreads (have you heard the one where side effects may include [wacky and improbable bodily functions]?) and a few scenes went on too long. And somehow teen blow jobs in a portable toilet kept coming up… Cringe again. But the wits on stage turned my alternatively tepid and confusing anecdotes and answers—including a minutes-long, aimless rant about sexism in the workplace—into skits that, for the most part, drew laughs from the audience. Caroline Pettit, Jenna Hall, and Eva Lewis were the standouts, but props to Jonathan Murphy for maintaining composure when two Washington City Paper employees booed him from the front row.
If you catch another evening of this performance, expect different female guests in the interview seat—Shana Glickfield, founding partner of the Beekeeper Group; Bridgette Harwood, co-executive director, Network for Victim Recovery of DC; and Jen Jinks, national campaign director for No Kid Hungry—who will hopefully give better material. I’m guessing that no matter what the cast is given, they’ll spin it into a lighthearted and genuinely fun evening. Grab a drink in the lobby before taking your seat, and if anyone asks if they can go through the contents of your purse onstage, just say yes.
The October Issue runs through Oct. 10 at the Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $15–$20. (202) 204-7800. womensvoicestheaterfestival.org.
Photos courtesy Washington Improv Theater