Performers

PRIYA BIRD

Priya is a native Californian. As a child, people would tell Priya she had a funny bone. She became so concerned about this that she took a career in healthcare to find a cure. She’s still searching for a treatment plan. Priya found her way to Improv so she could be more relatable to the Hipsters. Priya gave up her mom jeans for skinny jeans but can someone please let Priya know if it is “hip” to wear a knit beanie or a fedora hat these days? Priya loves spending time with her family, being married to the “Bard of Devon”, pretending to be Irish, figuring out the difference between string theory vs string cheese, and oh yeah, Held2gether. Finally, Priya is the COO of her aunt’s matchmaking business. So if you are interested in finding love please contact us at 1-800-Held-2-gether. Remember, all sales are final.

AGNES CHAN

Agnes is the mom to 37 kids. She first broke into television in 37 Kids and Counting. People Magazine calls her the next Kris Jenner with her kids starring in This Is Us, hosting The Late Late Show, and occupying every minor role on the Disney Channel. She currently stars in The Real Housewives of Long Beach. Agnes has performed in many Held2gether firsts including the first scripted play, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, the first Stand-Up Comedy Showcase, and the first improvised Superhero show. She’s a showstopper. The shows stop after their first and only performance with Agnes. Her improv career first started while growing up in Long Beach where another troupe member’s mom used to babysit her. Agnes moved to New York for college and stayed busy writing and starring in a Tony Award winning musical about one of the Founding Fathers. She threw away her shot and moved back to Long Beach to join the Held2gether Troupe and be cared for by her old babysitter.

DARREN HELD

Darren was cemented into the entertainment industry when he was asked to become Justin Timberlake’s body double. After numerous female maulings and assassination attempts, he decided it was much safer to direct other unsuspecting people into peril on stage. His favorite hobbies are broccoli separating, skipping to “Come on Eileen” and hugging. He’s found all of these things to be extremely helpful when directing his troupe, particularly on the days when Mercury is in retrograde.

ZARINA HORA

Zarina Hora was raised on the mean streets of Queens, NY.  She used to be known as  “Z from the block”  and spent her early years kicking other neighborhood kids in the shins and then running away. There are at least two other troupe members from New York but they don’t count because they are from “upstate” which is really not NY at all. Zarina started her career as an elementary school teacher but after doing it for three years, decided  it was way too hard and needed to do something easier. So she went to law school. It was a good decision because she realized that attorneys are not as cruel as 3rd graders. Zarina has a marriage of convenience since she has two cats and doesn’t want to be considered a crazy cat lady (having a husband is a great way to fool others into not thinking you are normal). Zarina enjoys improv because she gets to be different people with different personalities on stage which her therapist tells her is more acceptable than having different personalities in real life.

ALI KIMMEL

Ali has lived most of her life in southern California, and hails from the mysterious and rarely talked about land called the High Desert of San Bernardino County. An only child, she was 100% that kid who would randomly start singing on the bus and had lots of imaginary friends. She’s proud to say she has actual friends these days, and the imaginary ones only made an appearance that one time she tried hypnotherapy. The random singing still happens, though now in more socially acceptable situations.

Ali attended an acting conservatory for college and disliked it most of the time. She also was a full-time non-union extra for three years, and enjoys being that person you’re sure you’ve seen somewhere. Maybe from school? Church? No? Wow, that’s weird. She has done a bunch of community theatre, which is how she ultimately first learned about Held2Gether before ever moving to the Long Beach area. She moved there during the height of the pandemic, and once things felt safer to her, Ali decided to take classes there, as she has always enjoyed being silly with other people.

When not improvising, Ali can be found playing World of Warcraft (for Gilneas!), on her phone way too much, or repairing other people’s glasses. Please remember to not clean your glasses dry, remove them with one hand (unless you only have one hand—that was a super awkward experience), or push them on top of your head when you’re not using them. Sure, they look good up there, but that’s why they’re stretched out. Thank you.

LIZ LANIER

Liz is a Blackapino (Black & Filipino) improviser who grew up in San Diego and found her way to Long Beach via the 405. She enjoys copious amounts of sugar and caffeine. She is an aspiring beatboxer and harmonica player. By aspiring she means she can’t do either of those things. Yet.

ANN MANTEL

Ann has underwear older than many of her troupe members. Yet she still refuses to act her age.  Settled here in Long Beach for seven years, Ann is thrilled to have found her kooky comrades of Held2Gether.   Ann spent her early years in New York City where for 35 years, she wore mostly black, got everywhere on the  Subway and leased a succession of rent stabilized apartments.  Now in California, Ann can be seen wearing actual colors.  On the rare occasion that Ann in fact walks somewhere, she marvels at herself waiting for the WALK light before crossing the street. Ann would like to thank the Long Beach Unified School District for her salary and her union for collectively bargaining on her behalf.  Deep bows to Darren, Scott and the Held2Gether Company for their faith and patience.  Lastly, Ann would like to thank the universe for locating the Company in Long Beach where she can exercise her performance muscles without ever having to get on the 405.

NEIL MATSUZAKI

The Neil is a humanoid creature that exists to eat, sleep, and consume memes.  The Neil is native to the San Gabriel Valley but has been seen as far out as the wilds of Sacramento.  Current migratory patterns have seen the Neil in the Long Beach area integrating itself with the indigenous improv scene.  If you see one, don’t panic.  He is relatively harmless and will only approach if he is foraging for food or video games.  The Neil is a good source of nerd lore and is a good sacrifice on any adventure to show that the story is getting serious.

ALBERTO SANCHEZ

Alberto is a Tax Man by day and Improvisor by night. Born and raised in the South Bay and LBC! He loves to make people laugh and is always game to play the fool. Alberto constantly deep-dives into hobbies; from salsa dancing teams to sumo wrestling. With four years of improv experience, he is ready to dive deeper and make you all laugh.

CAEL SCHWARTZMAN

Cael tells us he comes from Saratoga Springs aka “Upstate” New York. For some reason he thinks anyone cares about there being parts of New York other than the big city. Spoiler alert: we don’t. In 2008 Cael decided that he needed to find some adventure, so he packed up his car and just started driving. Eventually he made it to San Diego and finally found his way to his new Held2gether home in Long Beach in 2011. Like a fool, he first enrolled in classes at Cal State Long Beach to become an “engineer.” In 2015, once he was done wasting his time getting his “engineering career” in order, he finally got his head about him and stumbled into his first level 1 improv class with the legend herself: Kendra Nicholson. From there it has been a whirlwind of a ride full of laughter, tears, drama, intrigue, and more laughter. Also, he has a cat, and enjoys indoor rock climbing and outdoor camping.

DANIEL SMITH

Daniel Smith is constantly playing something. If it’s not improv scenes, he’s probably playing the cello. If he’s not playing the cello, he’s probably playing jokes on his mom. If he’s not playing any of those, he’s probably playing the odds on whether or not he will get a sunburn without reapplying sunscreen after 45 minutes. He’s a risk taker. He will lose his wallet twice a month without batting an eye. He’s a class act. He doesn’t inconvenience those who accidentally call him David, Jacob, or some other basic Old Testament name—he accepts his new identity graciously. David Smith is here to play. And if you’ve seen a navy blue Velcro wallet with the words “Bad Mother-Clucker” on it, please contact us at Held2gether Improv— (562) 537-8558.

NELLI VELETYAN

Nelli started her storytelling career at the ripe age of two, spinning yarns in the local parks of post-Soviet Russia for anyone who would listen. After moving to the U.S. just before the dawn of preschool, she turned to books to help learn the language, and she discovered her love for reading and began a neverending to-be-read list. But her own material was running dry. For years, she scribbled in her diary of the mundane happenings of prepubescent life––MASH games, lanyards, Limited Too. Then, in her freshman year of high school, her drama program introduced an improv component: ComedySportz. And so began her journey with the world of ‘Yes, and.’ But as the years of “adulting” drew near, she learned to monetize her love for storytelling, and her path took a turn toward the field of marketing. And just when she thought her years of playing pretend might have come to an end, a move to Long Beach in 2017 led her to Held2gether and its warm, fun-loving community. Now, she spends her days storytelling on-stage and off, still sharing stories with anyone who will listen (most often her loving fiancé).