Pratt actress now enjoying improv opportunities

Gale Rose
Former Pratt Resident Niki Hart (left) performs an improv act in the El Portal Theatre in Los Angeles with the ComedySportz troupe in the last show before all theaters were closed in L.A. Watching are husband Chad Shapiro (seated left) and Brad West. Hidden behind Hart is Arlie Schrantz.

It's not the direction her life started in but for former Pratt resident Niki Hart, her life in North Hollywood, Calif. suits her just fine. Like everyone else, that life includes adjusting to COVID-19.

Hart graduated from Pratt High School in 2001. She wanted to be an actress and attended American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She did some acting in Off Off Broadway productions and a few small independent movies.

"I did a lot of Off Broadway and professional shows in New York," Hart said.

She met Chad Shapiro, a stand up comedian, at the Standup New York Comedy Club where she was a receptionist. The two fell in love and got married. It seemed New York would be their home but as it sometimes happens in life, things change.

The couple moved to Los Angeles and now they live in North Hollywood, Calif. which is a restaurant and small theatre area. Its a super fun area to live in, Hart said.

She continued to audition but she had lost her passion for acting. Working in professional theatre is very demanding.

"It's a grueling industry," Hart said. "I haven't stopped preforming. I stopped performing as a main career."

Hart had an opportunity to change roles in a totally new direction. She now works for Capital Group, a world wide investment group, in their learning and development department and has been there for three years. She works with customers on private investments. Hart was temping to help pay the bills when she heard about Capital Group that has about 8,000 employees worldwide with 2,000 in Los Angeles. She is enjoying her life in the investment community.

"It's the biggest firm you've never heard of," Hart said. "I'm very happy."

Part of her job includes training new hires and she does a lot of remote training so she was doing video conference calls two thirds of her day.

She was already conducting business remotely with their offices in Asia so the transition to working at home was not difficult. she has been working from home for the last eight weeks and has a lot to do because of the very volatile market.

"I've been very busy working from home," Hart said.

Hart didn't let working from home slow her down and neither did Shapiro. He created an online improv Comedy Friendzy that can be viewed on Facebook or Twitch. Using Zoom, Shapiro and four friends, receive comments and suggestions from viewers then create an improv and immediately perform without a rehearsal.

"It's still made up on the spot," Hart said.

She said the iImprov is like ’Hollywood Squares’ meets ’Whose Line is it Anyway’. It's family friendly and they wanted to make sure everyone was entertained.

The improv is done three nights a week at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays. Go to for on Twitch at to see the shows.

Hart still does some improv in Los Angeles including with Shapiro's online group.

Hart enjoys watching professional theatre productions online. Recent productions she has seen include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera and a production of Romeo and Juliet from the Globe Theatre in London.

Working and living in Los Angeles has some special challenges with the COVID-19 crisis. Everyone has to wear a mask when they leave the house. Hart and Shapiro go grocery shopping early in the morning to avoid the crowds but its hard to grocery shop and stay six feet away from people. They usually buy enough food for two weeks.

Hart said they have many friends in the restaurant and entertainment industry and they are finding new ways to navigate this new world. They live in an apartment and the overall feeling is quiet and not much tension. People have gotten very creative and are maintaining relationships over the internet.

"My social life has almost increased. I've made contact with friends across the country," Hart said. "I'm talking to people a lot more. The way I socialize is completely different."

Hart said she and her husband are trying to make the best of the situation and they are having a lot of fun together.

Hart is the daughter of Don and Lisa Hart, Pratt.