Chennai’s first all-women improv comedy ensemble The Hysterical will premiere its act at SOCO, Chennai on 24 September 2022. Co-founded by improv artist Shalini Vijayakumar and actress Amrutha Srinivasan in May this year, it took three months of training, two tester-shows and three public micro-shows to hit the big stage. They perform for an audience of 100+ this Saturday!
Vijayakumar—who has been in the improv game for three years and was previously a part of Baggy’s The Half Boiled Improv—has spent the last few months developing a strong core group of 10 improv artists. According to her, “We’ve come a long way and I feel quite privileged to have watched this process up close. From early inhibitions and doubts, to really setting the stage on fire and truly feeling like themselves when they get a laugh or a moment. It was very nice to see them create something that’s so fulfilling for themselves.” Vijayakumar added, “I’ve enjoyed coaching and teaching and actually learning more through teaching improv to the ensemble. I got a chance to inspire and motivate them saying ‘Hey, you really belong on that stage.’”
The Hysterical’s core group of improv artists include Keerthana PV, Monika Dhayalan, Nandita Lakshminarayanan, Neha Jhabak, Saga, Varsha Suresh and Vinithra Madhav Menon. Vijayakumar also stressed the importance of the community support she received from a host of women who helped the ensemble with social media, production, design, photography, makeup, hair and costumes more. Vijayakumar added, “These girls are very excited, they have bigger dreams for the Hysterical than [comedian, actor, Evam Standup Tamasha co-founder and newly minted producer of The Hysterical] Karthik Kumar or myself which is great! So they feel a sense of ownership over this. It’s true, we’re all together and it feels like a very equal team.”
With their premiere performance less than a week away, Vijayakumar also laid out a roadmap for the future, which includes improv shows and improv jams that are open for audience participation. The Hysterical will hold jams specifically for women as well and even go to women’s colleges to perform and conduct workshops. Eventually, the Hysterical hopes to open up to the public and allow anyone to attend and participate. They’ve even set their next target after the SOCO performance, and aspire to perform for a crowd of 500, go on an all-India tour and eventually even test out their craft abroad!
For Vijayakumar The Hysterical’s premiere at SOCO is just the beginning of something bigger. “What I really found interesting was connecting with so many like-minded women. Apart from the ensemble, the public jams that we hold for women and the auditions that we held. There’s been so much interaction with women and so much positive reinforcement. It’s been so contagious, the kind of energy that women who feel safe bring. And I feel like a lot of spaces need to be created for women to come and feel safer.” She continued, “This doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-women’s space but a space specifically that encourages women to come be themselves. It feels like beyond all the self-doubt and conditioning, women are fun people. Like really, really fun.”