Improvising Ambition

Every month we invite our readers to pitch us articles on a theme revealed in our regular newsletter. Find out what our next theme is by subscribing to our newsletter below. This month’s theme is ‘ambition’ and we chose Ariel Kurtz’s submission about her ambition to work around the ableist system in place and find a place in musical theatre, with a little help from improvisation…

I found theatre when I was 11 years old and I was hooked. I remember it made me feel so good to use all of my energy in a constructive way. My mom signed me up for a musical theatre class that was half musical theatre class and half improvisation. I looked forward to every Saturday afternoon and I remember being so happy that I found friends who were just as silly and loud as I was. I was always a very enthusiastic kid and teenager, which didn’t always go over well with my peers.  I still consider myself an enthusiastic adult and I will probably never lose that. 

Growing up, I was always a very eager student. I raised my hand and always participated in class. When I was in middle school, I was put into a specialized class for kids with learning disabilities. I didn’t want to be defined by how good or bad I was at school because of my disabilities. I just wanted people to think that I was smart and capable. I’m grateful for the arts teachers I had in my life, who helped to cultivate my eagerness and believed in me.

I always wanted to learn as much as I could about acting and do things to the best of my ability. When I knew I wanted to do musicals, I knew I had to dance. I had never taken ballet before, so aged 12, when most girls were putting on their pointe shoes, I was learning what a tendu was. I’m 5’1 and very skinny, so people always assumed I was graceful and would be good at ballet. That, my friends, is a lie! I have knocked knees and scoliosis. I will never be able to kick my face or do extremely technical choreography. I have so much respect for my dancer friends for their work ethic, but I know I will never be one of them.

I’ve always looked young for my age. I’m in my mid-twenties and I always get carded when I used to go out to bars (Pre-COVID, of course) and buy lottery tickets. I was mostly always stereotyped as the little girl in shows growing up. I was never deemed pretty enough to play the ingenue, but I’m also not extremely charactery like either. It was either the young girl or nothing, which was upsetting and has made me feel invalidated. One of the reasons I love improvisation so much is because you can be anyone you want to be and you are not put in a box. You can explore so many different parts of yourself and be as silly and big and loud as you want.  

When I was a sophomore in college, I had just transferred schools to a local community college and I was just taking Liberal Arts classes, so whenever I would transfer next would take my credits. I wanted to keep training outside of school, while I was studying. I joined a theatre company that summer and I was in an improvisation show that Fall. I really enjoyed it being a part of an ensemble and knowing that it wouldn’t work without the audience participation.

Doing improvisation for so long has made me a better communicator, team player and expert problem solver. I believe if everyone in the world took an improvisation class, the world would be a funnier, more understanding and better place. 

Ariel Kurtz
Ariel Kurtz
Ariel Kurtz (She/Hers/Her) is a performer and writer based in New York City. Her work as a performer has been seen at Manhattan Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Don’t Tell Mama’s. Her work as a writer has been seen on Girl Tell Me, Unread Magazine and Royal Rose Magazine. She is passionate about intersectional feminism, accessibility for the disability community and love. If you would like to learn more about her, visit or follow her on Instagram/Twitter @ArielKurtz13.

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