Northwestern alumni in an all-female comedy troupe perform at Chicago Improv Festival


Source: Nick Bourke

Jordana Mishory (fourth from left) and Eva Lewis (far right) perform with their all-female improv group Sweater Kittens. The group will appear at the 19th Chicago Improv Festival on May 6.

Rachel Yang, Assistant A&E Editor


With each joke they crack and audience they inspire, two Northwestern alumni in the all-female improv group Sweater Kittens aim to break down barriers for women in the world of comedy.

The troupe will perform at the 19th Chicago Improv Festival, which runs from May 2 through May 8. The group is one of more than 150 acts that will perform across Chicago at well-known theaters such as iO Chicago and The Second City Training Center, as well as newer venues such as The Revival on the South Side, said John Hildreth, the festival’s artistic director.

Jordana Mishory (Medill ‘05), who co-founded the Sweater Kittens in 2013, said she started the all-female improv group because she wanted more opportunities to work with women in the Washington, D.C. improv scene. She said there are about 20 women in the group at any time, although only 10 will perform May 6 at the Second City Training Center’s Blackout Cabaret, 1616 N Wells St. It will be the group’s first performance at the festival.

Sweater Kitten member Eva Lewis (School of Law ’09) said the group’s performances often explore issues such as dating and relationships from a female perspective, which distinguishes it from other improv groups that focus on subjects through a male lens.

For Lewis, improv has always been a complement to her professional life. She said she discovered improv when she went to a class with a law school classmate and it became an activity to look forward to while she prepared for the Illinois bar examination. She now works for the Washington D.C. mayor’s office and added that the principles of improv often come in handy at her job.

“I’m out in the community; I’m talking to people, helping them resolve issues,” Lewis said. “It’s the same in improv — everything we make up on the spot. … (You) listen and build upon what people are presenting to you. It’s in both worlds for me.”

Lewis said although the gender balance in the improv world is gradually improving, she still thinks it’s important that Sweater Kittens is an all-female group.

“Improv has this image of being male-dominated, and it’s still very much that way,” Lewis said. “(Sometimes) you see a whole group of men and there’s just one woman in the group. … It’s not as big a statement (anymore), but it still is a statement to have all women performing.”

When Lewis first started doing improv, she said she was scared by the unpredictability of performing on the spot. Now, however, she said she knows her fellow “kittens” will be by her side and support whatever she comes up with.

Mishory added that although the other improv groups she’s been part of are encouraging, it’s an unparalleled experienced to be in an all-female troupe.

“There’s just something about (performing) with women, and all women; it just feels like you’re just on a little bit more of the same page,” Mishory said. “Sometimes people can be in a scene where they’re misogynistic or sexist and that doesn’t really happen (in all-female groups). … It’s one of the most supportive groups that I’ve ever been a part of.”

One of the biggest appeals of improv is its combination of performing, comedy and creativity, Mishory added.

“I love the camaraderie of improv,” she said. “You go on stage with nothing, and only through reacting and listening and supporting your teammates, you create something that’s bigger than who you are.”

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