The Adamant Eves is Bengaluru’s largest all-women improv group. Their first ever show, held in September 2017 at Rangasthala auditorium was sold out. Since then, there has been no looking back for these talented girls. Balashree Viswanathan, who is heading Adamant Eves this year, says: “We get so many requests to perform that we are stretched thin.” Adamant Eves comprises six to seven active members.
“Madhu Shukla is a trained professional and it shows during her performances,” Balashree says, adding, “Laxmi Priya is excellent with physical theatre. Kavya Srinivasan is a theatre artiste and writer, and brings a structure to the performance. Shweta Bhat is dependable and can handle any improv format. Pooja Prakash Raj has a great sense of humour, Lavanya Krishna is a poet and Vaishnavi AB is good at dealing with difficult themes. Aarti Shastry is spontaneous and has zero fear about looking stupid, a fantastic quality for an improv artiste.”
As for herself, Balashree says. “If every improv team was a movie, I would get best supporting actor!” The 26-year-old has a day job of an investment analyst. “I trained and performed in the US at the Comedic Improvisational Alliance. When I came to Bengaluru, I reached out ICB in February 2017.”
Adamant Eves was started in July 2017. The group is an off-shoot of ICB, which was started in 2015 by Nasir Engineer. Balashree says: “At ICB we initially didn’t have equal participation of men and women. However, over the course of time, more women began joining, and that is why we decided to form Adamant Eves. There is no founding member as such.” Balashree explains, “The first few members were Madhu, who is from the National School of Drama, and has been doing improv for a number of years. Then there is me, Lavanya, Vaishnavi, Sneha Suhas, and Aarti.”
Balashree says Adamant Eves still performs under the banner of ICB. She stresses, though, that there is a marked difference between the way men and women perform. “Women are more emotionally nuanced and when we do scenes and stories on stage we tend towards more emotionally-deep stories. For us, humour is secondary. The performances have to be relatable.” She says they work well as a team. “We are all good friends and we connect with and trust each other.”
Their most memorable performances have ranged from the flippant to very serious. “We did a coming-out story of a gay man, who was not close to his brother because he was his parents’ favourite child. There was one about a mother and her toddler, who is not giving her peace at all,” says Balashree.
Twenty-five-year-old Laxmi, who works as an SEO analyst, says before she joined Adamant Eves, she performed in playback theatre.
“I still perform playback theatre. I joined Adamant Eves as it is complementary learning for me.”
“The difference between the two is that in playback, the narrative is already given and we play it back using metaphors and physical theatre. In improv, we create the narrative as well. I find improv interesting as the audience helps you understand your own biases and prejudices.”
She adds that they conduct two workshops and a couple of shows every month. Explaining the improv format, Laxmi says: “It is not just about comedy, it is also a powerful tool to talk about conflict, socio-political issues, and even ordinary things. It is completely spontaneous. There are short forms like games and shorter performances. There are also audience interactions which take on long- form duration. The formation is free flowing and open.”
Laxmi says one can join the group through auditions. “Anybody can do improv. The more you do it the more of a professional you become.”
The group will perform two shows in May. “On May 4, we have a performance at My Bo Tree in Koramangala, and on May 11, there is another performance at Atta Galatta. We will be performing along with this senior and experienced improviser Jonathan Pitts, founder of Chicago Improv Festival. But during out performance, he is only allowed to use the lines one of the women have spoken.”