Night of women’s comedy benefits survivors of sexual assault

Wesley Story

A large audience filled the Spider House ballroom to capacity Friday night as all-female comedy troupes took the stage for more than six hours to make their voices heard.

Spider House hosted BettyFest, an event that aims to provide a safe space for women in comedy to perform without limitations. All proceeds from the event benefited SafePlace, an organization that helps individuals affected by domestic violence and sexual assault through campus-based prevention and intervention services.

Ariana Cuellar, a member of comedy troupe Missed Opportunity, said BettyFest has been in the works for months, but she finds it sad how relevant it’s managed to be to current events.

“Improv makes me feel like I can say or do anything without being judged,” Cuellar said. “Creating a space for women to do that is so important, especially in the climate that we’re in with politicians saying rapey things and starting trends like #RepealThe19th and actively trying to take away women’s voices.”

BettyFest started with just four troupes performing at ColdTowne Theater in Austin but has since grown. This year, there were over 30 submissions from troupes wanting to perform.

The event featured performances by troupes such as Lady Parts, Missed Opportunity and M-M-Moms. Most of the troupes performed improvisation comedy.

Cuellar had a few words of advice for people considering getting into improv comedy: Just do it.  

“Just do it, just do it,” Cuellar said. “All you have to do is try and everyone’s going to catch you. That’s what’s so cool about improv is that when you put something out there, everyone is going to back you up.”

BettyFest partnered with SafePlace for the first time this year. A $10 cover charge paid by each audience member and donations taken throughout the night went directly to SafePlace.

“It’s amazing to be supported by other women and to see that there is a place for us in comedy,” Maddie Smith, one of the performers, said. “That they were able to turn this event into something that helped survivors of sexual assault makes it even better.”

The University also partners with SafePlace to provide free sexual assault forensic exams on campus. Students can receive post-sexual assault exams in the Urgent Care extension building of University Health Services. 

Taizha Christensen, theatre and dance junior, said the arts need new mediums like BettyFest that break preconceived molds. 

“It’s important to have many different outlets for art,” Christensen said. “An all-women’s night is just as important as anything else. It’s just a specific medium for the art.”