Katha Cato is going back to her roots.
More than 30 years after she last performed as a member of such improvisational troupes as Chicago City Limits, First Amendment Improv and Foreplay Improvised Theater, Cato will return to the art form with several friends at a Woodside performance space, to raise money to keep a favorite project running.
The Jackson Heights resident and her husband Don are the co-founders of the Queens World Film Festival, which presents “Improviser of a Certain Age” on Thursday, Nov. 15 at Artefix New York.
All funds raised will go towards funding the festival’s Young Filmmakers Program which is celebrating its 10th year by returning to P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights even though the program recently lost support due to cutbacks on community engagement by their commercial sponsor.
“Don and I decided to push ahead and fund it on our own,” Cato said. “It’s for a 5th grade inclusion class at an arts magnet school.
The festival places filmmaker mentors to guide the students through the process of creating short narrative films.
“We provide the opportunities to communicate and they turn into story tellers and artists,” Cato said. “It’s so important that we continue to support the children.”
The experience culminates in a red carpet event at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria during the Queens World Film Festival in March. In order to keep the screening free, allowing students, their families and the school community to attend free of charge, the Queens World Film Festival must raise funds.
“I want whole families to be able to be there and witness what their children were able to do, to see their work,” Cato said.
Improvisers of a Certain Age features six of the brightest and most accomplished New York City performers in a multi-racial, inter-generational improvisational performance group dedicated to engaging audiences in interactive storytelling experiences. Relying entirely on audience suggestions for their launch pad, the group dives head first into scenes, poems, stories, movie reviews, talk shows and more, all created right there on the spot.
“We’re not into wacka wacka comedy, we tell stories of human passion working with the audience for a valuable experience,” Cato said. “And we having really good raffles too.”
Cato adores the performance space, Artefix New York, located at 38-02 61st St. in Woodside.
“You have to see it to believe it, it’s like the Bitter End from 30 years ago on the Lower East Side,” Cato said. “We’re intending to blow the roof off of the place.”
As for the ninth-annual Queens World Film Festival, scheduled for March 21 to 31, 2019, the Catos’ have received 650 submissions from around the world.
“There’s is a lot more international involvement with films from Kosovo, Norway, Korea, Albania and Sunnyside. There is a lot of immigration material and it’s going to be far more political than it’s been in the past,” Cato said. “We anticipate screening another 150 to 180 films. We’re excited.”
And she’s beginning to feel stronger after an extensive battle with cancer.
“It’s been a tough go but my cancer is officially in remission after five years,” Cato said. “Maybe it’s time for our glorious third act now.”