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“You have to say yes; you can’t say
no,” Jurek said.
On a Tuesday night, Jurek
enthusiastically watched as
the several women in her
class played “Emotional
Uber,” acting out a carshare
gone wrong, and “Machine,” stepping up
one by one to become part of a human
espresso-maker, complete with sounds
“We get to be silly and say whatever is on our
minds,” said Rasna Defeis, who lives in Astoria
and is taking Jurek’s class for the second time.
“It lets you unleash.”
That’s one of the reasons Jurek wanted to
bring improv to women in her neighborhood,
to help them bond with each other, “show
the funny” in a safe space and escape the
mundane — jobs, kids, relationships.
Jurek, who had a career in musical theater
and directing, has always incorporated improv
into her work, whether in a warmup with
fellow actors backstage or coaching adults
for auditions, to pull out the “weirdness” and
“humanity” in their performances.
Once she had her first child two and a half
years ago, Jurek left her job at the time as the
assistant to a cantor at a synagogue, and was
getting to know more moms.
She started Hallet’s Cove Theater to pursue
performance of all forms, and “spread the
love” in her own way.
Her first local productions were full-scale,
interactive puppet shows in local stores and
children’s spaces like Raising Astoria and
Okabaloo. She provides the set and her handsewn
“trash puppets” with original storylines
and accompanying music.
“My rule was, I had to be fired,” she said.
“They had to fire me; that’s the only way I’d
The opposite happened: She gained a
following, attracting full houses to her shows.
Her characters continued to develop and
become more “bizarre,” she said.
Eventually, Jurek thought the moms she was
connecting with might be interested in creative
“I’m home, I’m meeting members of my
community and thought, ‘I wonder if people
around here want access to improv,’” she
While there are plenty of great places to do
improv in Manhattan, Jurek said not only can it
be expensive, but it can also feel intimidating.
She offered her first all-female improv
class last fall — 1.5-hour sessions once a
week, wine included. The class concluded
with a 45-minute performance for an
audience at the Astoria comedy space
Q.E.D., where the women acted out some
of the games they had practiced in class.
The second class, which includes the seven
original participants in addition to new
people, started in early February.
“This is special. I just wanted to make it a a
safe place for women to lead and be led,”
Jurek said of her improv class.
Defeis said she was intrigued when she saw
information on an Astoria moms Facebook
page, and hadn’t often seen the opportunity to
try improv in her own neighborhood.
Normally, yelling, “I want
to eat that baby!” wouldn’t
go over well, but in Astoria
Women’s Improv class,
Jen Jurek encourages
participants to say anything
and go with it.