It takes a unique breed of person to perform improv comedy — they have to be quick, sensitive to others, and, most importantly, really smart. Toronto-based improv group National Theatre of the World takes things a step further with their show Impromptu Splendor, which is inspired by the works of famous playwrights.
Matt Baram, Ron Pederson, and Naomi Snieckus study the works of the likes of Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, and David Mamet before taking the stage and improvising an hour-long show based around audience suggestions.
We recently caught up with the trio to talk about their upcoming performance, the art of improvisation, and Two and a Half Men.
City Paper: First, give us the basics.
Ron Pederson: Impromptu Splendor is a thrilling, critically acclaimed full-length improvised play paying homage to the world’s greatest playwrights and authors.
Naomi Snieckus: We are self-directed, which is just another way of saying that we’re far too difficult to listen to anyone tell us what to do.
CP: How did you guys get involved withthe company?
RP: The company was formed in a place where all great ideas come from: a bar.
Matt Baram: I thought you were going to say washroom.
RP: You mean bathroom. Americans say bathroom.
MB: Sorry, bathroom. That’s where all of my great ideas come from.
NS: We came up with the concept in 2008 with the intent to bring a new sophistication to the art form and to meld the theater and improvisation worlds together.
CP: Can you tell us about the format of the show?
RP: The cast prepares by studying the works of a particular playwright. We design a simple set, choose a little music, and pick simple costume pieces. On the night of the show, we interview the audience about what is happening in their lives for suggestions. The audience also titles the play. The rest is spontaneously negotiated to hilarious and moving results.
CP: What can viewers expect fromyour performances?
MB: I prefer that viewers keep their expectations extremely low. It’s way easier to blow someone’s mind when they think you’re terrible.
NS: Viewers can expect to be involved. They are helping us write these plays on our feet. The element of asking the audience about their experiences and then fusing it with the narrative of an improvised play make the evening very collaborative. But not to worry, we won’t bring anyone on stage or ask them to do anything embarrassing.
CP: Why should Charleston care about improv?
MB: You don’t have to care about a thing in order to watch it. How else do you explain the success of Two and a Half Men?
RP: Any town with a theater in it should explore the magic of improvisation, as it’s the most instant way to tell a story about what’s happening in the community at that very moment. It’s also fun and hilarious!
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