“I am so goddamned sick of yogurt.”
Thus spoke Deborah Holzel, my older sister. She was on stage at Second City Hollywood performing improv with a group dubbed the Class of 1898, a name that makes me think of William McKinley and the sinking of the Maine, but not a troupe of elders who came of age in the 1950s and ’60s.
Given the prompt of “frozen yogurt shop” and paired with another actor, Deborah’s cry of desperation could have been that of a teenager working her first low-paying job, or of a retired clinical social worker who has experienced some things too many times. (That’s her on the right in the multicolored vest.)
“As you get older, you don’t have as much to lose,” she told me, explaining what gave her and the others the freedom to stand in front of an audience and tempt failure. The only other age as creatively free as seniors, she said, are children under 10.
In our family, Deborah is more associated with the classics than blackout sketches. At 16, she played Medea at Cass Technical High School. Three at the time, I was too young to appreciate Euripides’ tragedy.
The last time I saw her act was about 1970 in a production of Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters.” This being Boston at the end of the ’60s, the theater played the new Beatles album, Abbey Road, during intermission.
Deborah soon gave up theater for social work, so it was fun to watch the video of the Second City performance and see my big sister in action. In one skit, everyone played a different type of radio station. Deborah was the well-modulated voice of NPR calmly announcing disasters in Texas and Florida.
In another skit, where Deborah and two other women were told they were baseball players, Deborah was described as “the scrappy, short haired one.” Deborah laughs at that. The lowest-keyed Holzel, she’s never been called scrappy.
The class was taught by Second City actor Celeste Pechous, whose Linked In page describes her as “SAG Actor, improvisor, Apartment Building Manager.”
Deborah wants to keep at it. Maybe next time she’ll be the one ordering the frozen yogurt.