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The Life of an Improv Wife

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In the belly of a dark theater in Queens, an audience member shouts, “Fortune!” In response, seven grown men, ranging in age and style of dress, move together in synchronous motions. Gazing into crystal balls fluidly morphs into the movement of surgeons snapping on sterile gloves. Now they’re floating on water, and one of them becomes a shark. They fight and hug, and then act like babies and in this way they lay the foundation for 25 minutes of improvised acting, a show that by its unscripted, fleeting nature will never be performed again.

One of those grown men, there on the floor, acting like a baby, is my husband of ten years, and this is how a Friday night usually plays out for him and his improv team, who go by the name of Goose.

The theater they are performing in is the Queens Secret Improv Club (QSIC) in Long Island City, just a subway stop from Manhattan. Friday night is House Night, when regular teams take the stage every week. Tickets are $5, and beer and wine is available for a dirt cheap $4.

The life of an improv wife can vacillate between loneliness and hilarity. At the end of a long work week, my husband will stop home on Friday, shed the button-down boredom of his day job, and change into his improv self. More often than not, unless I tag along to a performance, I’m left to welcome in the weekend solo, and while he has sky-high stamina for performing, talking about and watching improvisational entertainment, I, on the other hand, must practice moderation so as not to burn out on the banquet of improv that New York abounds with.

This restraint still has me going to more performances than anyone else I know, but by striking that balance, I truly enjoy the shows I do attend.

The city’s improv scene was practically created for the Broke-Ass New Yorker. Even the famous UCB Theater, which churns out powerhouse comics regularly, which offers quality performances peopled with the likes of SNL or 30-Rock cast members, never charges more than $10 for any performance. It’s a great place to catch a show, but don’t be afraid to check out the smaller venues around the city, too, like QSIC.

Besides providing rock-bottom priced entertainment, my husband’s affair with improv has brought back to me the grit-glam New York of my teenage fantasies. Growing up in rural New York State, I imagined my city counterparts spending their evenings at basement poetry readings, or eclectic art shows in tiny, trendy galleries, while I was doomed to another Saturday at the mall. Improv, unexpectedly, has given me a tour of New York’s dungeon theaters and black box playhouses, usually full of supportive friends squirming around on metal folding chairs. It’s the New York I was always looking for, even before I lived here.

If you’ve been meaning to check out improv but haven’t gotten around to it yet, try it out. It’s a great way to have some cheap fun.

House Night
Every Friday 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Queens Secret Improv Theater
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, NY

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Michele DeBella - Cheap Chick

Michele DeBella - Cheap Chick

Michele enjoys discovering interesting stories in people and places around the world. After many years of living a nomadic lifestyle, funded mostly by teaching English in foreign countries and U.S. cities, she has made New York City her home base. While she loves to travel, she also has to pay rent, so realizes that unique experiences sometimes have to be found close to home.