Most Inclusive Comedy Show

Performers (from left) Rallo Boykins, Rahmein Mostafavi, Kim Villamera, Anna Tirat Gefen and Kim Levone appeared in a show starring immigrant and first-generation comedians. (Photos by Rashawn Goss White).

A woman, an immigrant and a gay person walk onto the stage at a comedy show. It sounds like the setup to an old-timey joke, but it’s actually the basis for Improbable Comedy, a production company that aims to transform the stand-up industry by giving the mic to historically underrepresented comedians. Shows feature women, immigrants, people of color, indigenous performers, LGBTQ comedians and those who have disabilities. While highlighting diverse voices is important, says co-founder and Silver Spring resident Kim Levone, what’s equally paramount is that performers are truly funny. Improbable Comedy, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022, has presented themed shows, such as “The Mother of all Comedy Shows,” featuring women and nonbinary performers, and “Comedy as a Second Language,” with immigrant and first-generation talents. Last summer, Improbable Comedy teamed with Montgomery Parks to present comedy in local parks. Catch a show at the monthly “Stand Up Silver Spring” performance at the Silver Spring Black Box Theatre or this February at the Sweet & Sour Valentine’s Day Show at Busboys and Poets in Takoma Park.

Improbable Comedy is based in Silver Spring, 301-804-0806

Boldest Casting Choice in a Local Play

Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

With Jade Jones—a curvy, Black woman who identifies as queer—as Belle and Evan Ruggiero—a dance prodigy who lost a leg to cancer and wears a prosthetic—as the Beast, Olney Theatre Center’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast made national headlines when it premiered in November 2021. The unusual but thoughtful casting challenged audiences to broaden their thinking about who belonged in leading roles and added dimension to the story’s theme of recognizing beauty that is more than skin deep. It was director Marcia Milgrom Dodge’s intention to “smuggle a little extra meaning into this popular entertainment,” according to Joshua Ford, the theater’s director of marketing and communications. The production also clicked with Olney Theatre’s mission to expand access to theater and invite in new audiences. Though its initial run was cut short by the COVID-19 delta wave, the show, again directed by Dodge, returned to the stage for a second run in November 2022.

Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, 301-924-3400

Best New Places to See and Make Art

Illustration by Pete Ryan.

Whether you’ve made a resolution to express your creativity this year, are looking for ways to gather and connect with friends, or are just hoping to try something new, two arts-related businesses that opened in Montgomery County last year offer fun and nonintimidating opportunities to see and make art.

Courtesy Sip & Develop.

Imagine having a night out with friends and capturing all the fun in pictures. But instead of posting them on Instagram, you develop them from old-school 35 mm film and make beautiful black-and-white prints. That’s the idea behind Sip & Develop, a Silver Spring business that opened in March 2022. It combines the nostalgia and novelty of film with the socializing of a sip-and-paint party (though they don’t sell alcohol). Owner Rashon Robinson loves film photography and knows that people want something fun to do. At the studio, customers can shoot pictures with a camera and film provided, or have in-house photographers take pictures of them, then get instructed in developing their images.

Sip & Develop, 8501 Fenton St., Silver Spring Instagram @sipndevelop

Photo courtesy of Girls Who Paint.

Kensington artists Sarah Renzi Sanders and Angie Meche Kilcullen opened Girls Who Paint, their gallery and community art space, last April with a goal of making art more accessible—to the public and to underrepresented artists. The space feels more like a living room than a gallery. Exhibitions regularly feature the work of local women and artists of color. At pop-up shopping events, women-owned businesses sell jewelry, pottery, candles and the like; the welcoming attitude and wide price range lower the barriers for people who feel intimidated in other art-world settings. Hoping to inspire others to make art, Sanders and Kilcullen offer adult sip-and-paint events and after-school art classes for children.

Girls Who Paint, 10419 Fawcett St., Kensington Instagram @girls.who.paint