ON HER BREAKOUT SERIES Alone Together, Esther Povitsky played a somewhat directionless Midwestern millennial struggling to make it in Los Angeles. Though she has described the character (also named Esther) as an exaggerated version of herself, Povitsky demonstrates far more drive than her fictional counterpart, having already carved out an eclectic career that includes success in stand-up, podcasts, and television.

Povitsky moved from her native Chicago — where she was a Thespian alum of Troupe 113 at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill. — to Los Angeles at age 21. While performing stand-up as Little Esther, she also showcased comedic chops as a guest on television series including Parks and Recreation, New Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In addition, she gained a following as the host of podcasts Weird Adults, in which she interviewed other comedians, and Glowing Up, where she covered beauty and health topics.

Thespian alum Esther Povitsky in Alone Together.

Thespian alum Esther Povitsky in Alone Together. Photo by Freeform/Eric McCandless.

Alone Together originated as a 2015 short film Povitsky wrote, produced, and starred in with her friend and fellow Comedy Store alum Benji Aflalo before debuting on Freeform in 2018. Most recently, Povitsky held a recurring role as Maya on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and will star as Izzy on the upcoming Hulu series Dollface.

The college dance and theatre major, who displayed her singing and hoofing skills on both Alone Together and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, said someday she’d love to perform professionally in a musical. Asked to name her dream role, she said, “Roxie Hart or Velma Kelly. Or anything directed by Rob Marshall. When I saw his movie Chicago, the next week, every day after school, I took a different friend across the street to the movie theatre and made them see it with me. I would very happily play a tree in anything he makes. Rob, if you need a tree that can time step, please call Jonathan Weinstein at United Talent Agency.”

Do you have favorite theatre memories from your time as a Thespian?
Playing Mary Tilford in The Children’s Hour. Our theatre program was very competitive, and I was almost never cast in plays. Mary Tilford was the only substantial role I got to play in high school, and it meant a lot to me. Our theatre director, Tim Ortmann, said he had wanted to do that play for years but had never had a student he could see as Mary until he met me. He must have seen me in a fight with my boyfriend.

You began your career in stand-up. Do you find that theatre training makes you a better comedian and vice versa?
My interest in stand-up came from wanting to work in comedy and not knowing how to begin that path. It clicked for me that stand-up was the only avenue where I had creative control. I wouldn’t have to audition for an improv team, I wouldn’t have to meet people to make sketches with — I could just depend on me. That made it feel extremely accessible and desirable.

I think theatre training absolutely helped with starting stand-up because I was already comfortable onstage. There is, of course, a terribly long way to go after that, but experience onstage of any kind is helpful. It’s all cross-training in my opinion. Improv class, stand-up, acting, podcasting, writing, hosting — these are all things that help strengthen the others.

Have you always enjoyed writing, or is stand-up how you discovered your voice?
Stand-up is how I discovered I was a writer. I probably did stand-up for a year before I realized, wait, I’m writing my material, I should try to write other things too.

You’ve said Alone Together was born from not being able to find roles that fit you as a performer. Creating your own opportunities seems to be a common theme in your success. How did you find the courage to take risks?
I think the path of being just a performer is too big a gamble. But the good news is there is so much opportunity for you to create for yourself. There are many outlets to be funny on social media, to create videos on your phone, to write a play and produce it — the list goes on and on.

I don’t believe courage is something you find. It is something you decide to have. To be completely honest, when I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, I said to myself, “I’m going to move to L.A., and if I’m not a movie star in one year then I will move home and go to community college and work at Walgreens.” I learned quickly that the “become a movie star in one year” track was not going to be my path.

What advice would you share with Thespians serious about pursuing a career like yours?
This career is a marathon of hard work, being creative, being rejected, and being kind. If you’re into that, then you’re going to do great. If you want to be in a sprint, get ahead without putting the work in, do what everyone who came before you did, always win, and be fake, you should switch gears and consider politics.

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