The National Theatre of the World’s Impromptu Splendor (entirely improvised plays in the style of famous playwrights) has become one of the first things that I recommend to people who tell me that they are descending upon Toronto from elsewhere. Even if they are merely switching planes at Pearson, I likely try to persuade them to take a bit of time to check out this three consecutive (2009,2010,2011) Canadian Comedy Award winning Improv troupe. It is always exciting to me to have the opportunity to share the pride I feel for a company such as the National Theatre of the World with those visiting the great city of Toronto, but there is something extra exhilarating when the company gets exported outside the country.
There has been a lot of exciting Canadian theatrical activity in New York City within the last year, and certainly with Stratford’s cast of Jesus Christ Superstar heading to Broadway later next year, the buzz surrounding Canadian talent and these indigenous Canadian shows and companies both at home and beyond our borders is both invigorating to see and wildly overdue. What makes me so quick to recommend the National Theatre of the World to anyone, but especially to those who will be in New York City this weekend and may wish to head over to The Barrow Street Theatre to catch Impromptu Splendor, is how thoroughly unique and singular the show and the experience watching it is.
That singularity, of course, is inherent in the idea of an improvised play, that we are witnessing a story that will only ever be told once and characters who are born and live and grow before our eyes and when the curtain falls, they are usually retired forever. The spark of inspiration is always palpable to The National Theatre of the World’s enraptured audience, as it shoots back and forth between its three performers like something alive, the igniting spirit of Dionynos, the essence, really, of the magic of the theatre. Seamlessly, or so it seems, something new is created in our presence, with our complicity, and that is the National Theatre of the World’s eternal gift to their audience. I think that is why their plays strike the most personal and ardent chords in my heart… because I was there when they were born.
At the same time, search far and wide across this massive world filled with talented people and you will never find another Ron Pederson or another Matt Baram or another Naomi Snieckus and you will certainly never find three people who perform together in the distinct way that these three do. So much of what makes Impromptu Splendor so successful and so fulfilling to watch is in their humanity as artists and individuals. They improvise not only with their brains, which are big, sharp and bright encyclopaedias of knowledge and comedy (and in Ron’s case, also a dictionary), with vivid imaginations without fences or bounds, but they also fully engage their hearts and it is their hearts that make their plays as timeless and beautiful as any written in the traditional way by a playwright and rehearsed beforehand.
New York City, you are fortunate to have the National Theatre of the World in your midst. I cannot stress enough how ardently I recommend going to see Impromptu Splendor at the Barrow Street Theater (27 Barrow Street, Manhattan) Friday October 21 (An Improvised Play in the Style of Anton Chekhov) and Saturday October 22nd (An Improvised Play in the Style of David Mamet). Both shows are at 10:30pm and are only $15.00. For more information, follow this link. (For discount tickets use the code IRCNTW when you call 212.868.4444 and thank Naomi Snieckus after the show for that!)
If you can’t wait to see The National Theatre of the World, you are in luck; they will be improvising The Carnegie Hall Show! (an Improvised Retrospective of the Greatest Improvised Scenes of all Time) TONIGHT (Wednesday October 19th at the Magnet Theater (254 West 29th Street, Manhattan). 7:00pm. $5.00 (!) Come for a drink, stay for the laughs.
Sometimes you are fortunate in the theatre to watch a genius in action and with the National Theatre of the World you get to watch three of them collaborate on a spontaneous theatrical marvel. Go.