Impromptu’s A Show That’s So Splendiferous…

I recently read an article that I can now only vaguely remember, in which the author, whose name has slipped my mind, wrote about the importance of the playwright laboring incessantly over his or her work. Perfection, this author said, was the ultimate goal, as his writer poured over every word and semicolon searching in vain for something to fix, or tweak. Undoubtedly there are playwrights who work this way, and whose final product is heralded as a masterpiece, but I know that there are playwrights who write quicker, and more frequent, who rarely stop to glance over their shoulders to reflect upon their choice of this word over that. The works of these playwrights have also been heralded as masterpieces. Which brings me to the question.
What if there was no “playwright”?
The National Theatre of Canada’s weekly show at Comedy Bar Impromptu Splendor is a one-act play that is improvised in its entirety especially for that night’s particular audience. In this form, there is no opportunity to rewrite a single word, and the collective creation process occurring continuously between the actors is fascinating to watch. The most fascinating thing about this process is that it is almost invisible. As a matter of fact, if a spectator did not know that she or he were watching an improvised play, this spectator would most likely assume that she or he had stumbled into a theatre producing the work of an unknown, yet somewhat established Canadian playwright- a play that had been written and then rehearsed. The four core actors (Matt Baram, Kayla Lorette, Naomi Snieckus and Ron Pederson) work in such perfect synchronicity that the entire production evokes a degree of magical awe.
To add to the fun, each week at Impromptu Splendor the actors choose a playwright in advance and attempt to present their improvised play in that writer’s style. Last night I attended the Company’s homage to the late great Harold Pinter. The title was conceived by asking the audience for an event and then an adjective, and thus, the Pinteresque Impromptu was hailed The Sloppy Wedding. They also asked the audience for an object that they could use as a prop for the show, and they were presented with a rubber boot. (Out of which came Naomi’s fantastic line, “Something old, something new, something borrowed and something boot.”).
I was immediately struck within the first few moments of The Sloppy Wedding that in improvising a play, these actors were not only acting as their own impromptu writers, but also as their own impromptu directors (and sound technicians). The first minute and a half of this play contained no dialogue, but a montage of odd repeated sounds, use of random objects, and an unconventional use of space and movement. It is truly an incredible experience to watch, because it seems as though these actors must be working so excruciatingly hard, and yet, it seems like the most effortless thing in the world. They appear to be having fun and this puts the audience at immediate ease for it is implicit that there will be none of the awkwardness or dreaded dead silences that so often accompany improvisation.
Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus show remarkable versatility in the range of characters they continually invent, and then build upon. Ron Pederson makes good use of physicality and his vocal range to ensure that Impromptu Splendor, although improvised, remains a sort of “total theatre,” and not just talking heads in armchairs. Kayla Lorette continues to astound me in her ability to totally transform into her fascinating and nuanced characters while always upholding her impeccable comedic timing.
Beginning last night, Impromptu Splendor welcomes a slew of some of Canada’s most talented performers to guest star in these improvised plays. Naomi Wright was absolutely brilliant in A Sloppy Wedding, giving a performance that seemed so natural it would have been impressive even if she had been reading from a script. Upcoming guests include Ashley Wright, Ted Dykstra and Jane Spidell.
Impromptu Splendor is a rare and extremely special event. These plays open and close on the same night and leave nothing except hazy memories behind them. The characters and narratives unfold like a mystery and there is a magical moment near the end where the strange and the expected collide which creates something quite profound and fundamentally beautiful. Aptly, it is an hour of impromptu splendor that you may not realize is missing in your life, but that you will appreciate wholeheartedly when it is offered to you at the Comedy Bar.
Impromptu Splendor plays every Thursday night at Comedy Bar. 945 Bloor Street West. 8:00pm. PWYC. If you are like me, you’ll probably get lost, so I will tell you very expressly where it is. It is on Bloor Street, just past Ossington Avenue and between Concord Avenue and Delaware Avenue. It is on the South side of the street and down a staircase below street level. Once you find it- you’re in for a splendiferous treat!

I also endorse Steve Fisher and his blog Gracing the Stage- check out what he has to say about Impromptu Splendor here ( He has included photos and media!

I also endorse The National Theatre of Canada’s website. Check it out!

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