The Upstate New Yorker "Ramblings of the Region"
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
In men’s jeans from Target and a flowing Gap shirt, Heather Schwartz is not exactly glamorous, but she’s better dressed than you’d expect from the image she constructs in some of her work. “I actually never shop in Walmart,” she said, waiting for a class to begin at The Mopco Improv Theatre, in Schenectady. She paused and qualified her statement: “At least, I haven’t been in there since the pandemic started.”
At the instructor’s behest, Schwartz and nine other students clambered on stage to form an uneven circle and play a game called, “Whoosh.” This was followed by several more warm-ups, with players creating characters and tossing invisible items around, before the group was released to audience seating to watch two volunteers perform a scene together.
“I can’t talk now,” Schwartz said to a fellow student—a newbie to improv culture—in a hushed tone, her gaze laser-focused on the stage. “I need to watch this.”
About halfway through the 90-minute class, the instructor initiated a “bio break,” and Schwartz relaxed to engage with a few quick questions about her work. Quiet Girl Comedy is a commentary on celebrity culture, a meta exploration that places Schwartz (albeit a fictionalized version of herself) squarely at its center. But what drives her to create?
“When I have a visceral reaction—usually to a headline—I’m compelled to respond,” she said, reaching into her bag and pulling out some Coolmint Ice Breakers, a detail highlighted in this piece for no apparent reason other than pretension. “It could call out a major celebrity, like one I saw recently about Melanie Griffith’s brown bikini—‘brown,’ what a detail!—but it could also be something more localized, like a ‘40 Under 40’ list in a weekly business publication. Someone is always rising to the top, a select few are deemed worthy by others. Sure, the anointed gain a privileged position, but this system takes away their agency at the same time.”
As she said this, she grew pensive. The instructor called out his intention to start class again. “I wonder what the headline for this article will be,” Schwartz said, thoughtfully, rising from her velvet cushioned seat. “The one you’re writing right now, about me.”
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