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Bostonians celebrate urban improv fundraiser ‘Banned in Boston

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Bostonians celebrate urban improv fundraiser ‘Banned in Boston
State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Jim McGovern. (Photo: Photo: Lisa Kessler)

“Not only did it change my life, I witnessed how it literally changes the lives of young people in Boston,” said Darrus Sands, a health educator with the Boston Public Health Commission on being involved in Urban Improv as a fifth grader.

Sands spoke briefly at the organization’s major fundraiser “Banned In Boston” which was held on Friday, April 8 at the House of Blues. Like the nearly 500 patrons in attendance, Sands was there to support the organization which has engaged more than 70,000 children over its 20-plus year history.

Author: Photo: Lisa KesslerCity Council President Michelle Wu and Dorcena Forry.

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For more information about Urban Improv, visit

Urban Improv works with students from grades four to eight from Boston schools using improvisational theater workshops — taught by professional actors and educators — to teach violence prevention, conflict resolution and decision-making skills. The workshops offer students the opportunity to explore their own solutions to real-life issues such as bullying and peer pressure.

Before the main event got underway, Toby Dewey, Urban Improv’s artistic director talked about the organization’s uniqueness. He explained that students are taken out of school and brought to Urban Improv’s locations “where we can create an atmosphere of openness, trust and respect.”

Darrus Sands, who was one of those students at one point in his life, also confirmed that “what I didn’t know when I got off that bus was how my life would be changed.”

Banned In Boston, which was hosted by WGBH’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, brought together a “who’s who” of the city’s media personalities, business leaders, restauranteurs and politicians to poke fun at themselves, as well as at contemporary life and today’s obsession with social media — through song and comedy. Some of the high-profile attendees included: Matt Siegel, host of KISS 108’s, “Matty in the Morning”; Senator William “Mo” Cowan, senior vice president and chief operating officer, Mintz Levin; Sam Kennedy, president of the Boston Red Sox; John Barros, chief of economic development for the city; MA State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, and Chris Douglass, chef/owner of restaurants Ashmont Grill and Tavolo.

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who performed for the first time, had been looking forward to participating in the event because of all the wonderful things she heard about the night, and also for the incredible work that Urban Improv is known for even if it was at “her own expense,” said the councilor by phone earlier in the week.

Wu performed alongside State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry in the skit “Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad,” where Wu as Lizzi Borden and Forry as Louisa May Alcott had to give reasons why they should be chosen to be part of the singer’s “girl squad.”

With laughter taking place both on and off stage, the evening was a resounding success with Urban Improv anticipating raising more than $500,000 for the organization.