It was cold outside on Tuesday, December 11, night, but laughter filled the Tribeca Cinemas with warmth as Cherub Improv celebrated its Third Annual Winter Gala. The night, which raised some $40,000, featured live and silent auctions of items ranging from jewelry to a dining experience at Telepan, and an open bar and passed canapés.
More than 100 guests howled as cherubs (volunteer actors) along with the organization’s founders, Jonathan Goldberg, Joy Purver, and Steve Van Ooteghem, demonstrated the magic of improv. Improv exercises including jokes about 185 gym teachers and a love song dedicated to a screw, tested the creativity of the cherubs, who lit up the room with their energy and spirit.
It is that gift of laughter that Cherub Improv spreads through its performances, workshops and events throughout New York City. The organization was founded in 2007 by the three friends, who had years earlier happened into a class and become enthusiasts of improv. Goldberg says his father gave him the idea for creating Cherub Improv, as a form of “time management” as a way to combine his volunteer work with improv. He noted that no one had brought improv comedy to hospitals, so “there was a wide open field, and I felt like it was the perfect combination.” Now with some 175 volunteer actors, the group has presented more than 650 free shows and workshops in roughly 50 hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and children’s centers. “We look to bring the art form to people and communities who need us, “ he said, “and wherever there is a need we like to answer the call.”
Shelly Savoca, a cherub who leads workshops with Big Brothers Big Sisters, says that laughter can be “truly healing.” “You think you have problems, but getting people to laugh, you realize your problems are nothing,” she says. Kari Dela Cruz, a high school senior, has been a cherub at Ronald McDonald House for a year. She read from her college essay, in which she wrote that being a cherub has not only given her strength but also empowers the children she works with.
Four women, Edna Nelkin, Betty Gumanow, Rosanne Zweig and Zelda Fassler, who participate in monthly improv workshops at the Kittay House home for seniors, told the crowd how their lives had been touched by Cherub Improv. They said that Goldberg and the other cherubs made them “feel reborn,” bringing “life back to them” by “giving them permission to be crazy.” As Ms. Nelkin put it, “it is healthy for us.”
Testimonials like these and the warmth and generosity of the guests really aligned with the theme of the event, “Angels Among Us.”