The Top Ten Reasons That Impromptu Splendor Will Rock Your World

ron pederson, naomi snieckus, matt baram
photo by skye regan
The National Theatre of the World’s critically acclaimed show Impromptu Splendor is coming to the SuperNova Theatre Festival at Eastern Front Theatre in Halifax May 5th-8th. Impromptu Splendor, performed by Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram and Ron Pederson, is a fully-improvised one act play done in the style of an iconic playwright. These shows will rock your world. Here’s why.
The Top Ten Reasons That Impromptu Splendor Will Rock Your World
1. Their theatre company is called The National Theatre of the World.
‘Nuff said.
2. You have NO idea what is going to happen!
No adventure is too mighty for Impromptu Splendor. Every evening the slate for the show is essentially clean. Like a blank page or canvass- there are so many possibilities!
3. There is humour in everything.
Anyone who can make me laugh jovially during a play written in the style of Anton Chekhov or Henrik Ibsen deserves the highest praise we can give them.
4. They’re Over Qualified.
Between them Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram and Ron Pederson have won and/or have been nominated for a mighty parade of awards from across the country including the Jessies, the Sterlings, the Canadian Comedy Awards, and the Merritts. They have performed at The Second City (Toronto), in a myriad of plays and musicals across Canada, in Improv Festivals in Chicago, Los Angeles and Edmonton and they can be seen on popular television shows (both Canadian and American) and in a slew of television commercials.
5. You won’t believe your eyes!
It is possible that you have never seen an Improv show like Impromptu Splendor. Not only do Naomi, Matt and Ron improvise a full one-act play which is entirely coherent and captures the narrative and technical styles of a specific playwright, but they are so meticulous, clever, sharp and proficient that you may forget that you’re watching something that is unfolding entirely before your eyes. It certainally adds to the magic and wonder!
6. Naomi, Matt and Ron all live in the same house.
This means that they are continually manoeuvring around one another being spontaneously funny all day. No other theatre company in the country gets this much practice without rehearsing!
7. You loved Ron Pederson last time you saw him!
Ron Pederson was last seen on a Haligonian stage in November, 2009 as James in Nova Scotian playwright Ron Jenkins’ play Extinction Song at Eastern Front Theatre, for which Ron was nominated for a 2010 Merritt Award.
8. The National Theatre of the World loves to share
Naomi, Matt and Ron aren’t simply content with performing for you while they’re in Halifax, they would also like to share their love of Improv with you! There are two workshop opportunities through Eastern Front Theatre where Naomi, Matt and Ron encourage all those with a penchant for performance to come and play! Just say yes! 
9. They make snazzy videos.
10. Colin Mochrie digs them so you will too.
“Playing with the Impromptu Splendor improvisers reminded me why I do this for a living…the sense of danger, the excitement, the never-ending fun and the chance to work with the most talented people in the country”- Colin Mochrie (Who’s Line is it Anyway, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Drew Carey Show).
The most talented people in the country! If that doesn’t rock your world, nothing will!

Impromptu Splendor at Eastern Front Theatre’s SuperNova Festival

Schedule:


Wednesday May 5th, 2010- 8:30pm

Thursday May 6th, 2010- 8:30pm


Friday May 7th, 2010- 8:30pm


Saturday May 8th, 2010- 4:30pm


Tickets: $17.00-$22.50.

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Crocosmia Shines With a Brilliance Brighter than Just One Bulb

shamira turner, clare beresford, dominic conway
Some plays you see and know right away that you will never forget them. Crocosmia, a play by Little Bulb Theatre in association with Farnham Maltings from Farnham, Surrey, England which plays until April 24th, 2010 in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, is one such play.
Crocosmia is a collective creation, developed from improvisation under the direction of the incredibly astute Alexander Scott and boasting of the incredible talents of Shamira Turner, Clare Beresford and Dominic Conway. The play centers on the Brackenberg children, 10 year old twins Finnlay (Conway) and Sophia (Turner) and the precocious Freya who is seven and three quarters, which is so much younger than eight. The Brackenberg children are wonderfully imaginative and spirited and they immediately thrust the audience into their Vaudeville of toys, records, puppets and their house band, The Superfishy Underwater Orchestra.
The play’s the thing in this household and it cements these innocent, blithe, creative children deep in our hearts. We are also introduced to the children’s parents, Geoffrey and April with both Conway and Turner sharing the roles of each parent. April is reminiscent of Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan, the perfect example of glamour, beauty and motherhood with her children shining in her eyes. Geoffrey is bursting with that shy, sheepish English charm that is utterly irresistible. He is the sort of husband who will cover his wife’s eyes and say, “Don’t be alarmed, something terribly romantic is about to happen” before taking her on a trip to Paris via an overhead projector since the family cannot afford a literal vacation. Yet, the blissful lives of the Brackenberg children and the parents they adore come to a crashing halt when Geoffrey and April are killed in a car accident and the audience realizes that Sophia, Finnlay and Freya’s Vaudeville is in fact a homage to the life that has been torn from them and re-enacting their fanciful memories is the children’s way of coping with an extreme sadness and sense of loss.
It is always a challenge for adult actors to play children, for so often grownups forget how rich and detailed, complex and curious a childhood is and that each child is exceptionally unique. So often the children of the theatre are blunt caricatures of annoying and bratty stereotypes. Finnlay, Sophia and Freya spring forth, bursting with soul and humanity because Conway, Turner and Beresford infuse them with incredible nuance and capture specific aspects of childhood that resonant powerfully and hit you straight in the heart. Shamira Turner’s Sophia is eloquent and dignified and, as the oldest by four minutes, takes her responsibilities toward her siblings very seriously. Turner is brilliant at continually propelling Sophia back and forth between a child attempting to see the world through an adult’s eyes, and a young girl entirely immersed in the adventure of the moment. Dominic Conway’s Finnlay is sensitive and revels in the special bond he has with his twin sister, but he is also quick to mimic his father’s protective warmth for Freya. Clare Beresford shines with exceptional brightness as Freya in a performance detailed right down to the open palmed way the little girl continually, and awkwardly, brushes the hair away from her eyes. It is difficult not to fall in love with Freya, a girl who is continually trying to permeate the twins’ connection, who demonstrates true devotion to a fish, Stinky, that she gnawed out of a carrot, and who throws two hundred percent of herself into everything she does.
Alexander Scott has directed this piece to capture the chaotic Pioneer spirit of a child’s playroom, where any adventure is a moment away from imagining. There are so many scenes in this play that are outstanding in their poignancy and their delightfulness. From the funeral scene that reflects the children’s naive reactions to an unthinkable calamity to Freya Knows Best, a sequence in which Freya plants a crocosmia plant by burying and watering a light bulb, innovation and wonder is woven deep into this play. The scene that I found the most heart rendering was a puppet show that the children performed using pre packaged cakes, two large ones representing their parents, and three smaller ones as the children, acting out the cherished memories from their childhood. This leads to a wonderfully touching story about Geoffrey and April taking Freya on the swings and ends up with the children smashing the cakes wildly into their mouths. This is the moment where your heart will break.
Crocosmia is a shining example of dynamic and captivating contemporary theatre and the magic that can be created on a stage filled with toys when four brilliantly talented minds collide and embrace the power and profundity of play.
Little Bulb Theatre’s Crocosmia closes tonight April 24th, 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue) at *7:30pm*. Call 416.504.7529 right away to book your tickets. If you use the promo code: The National Theatre of the World, you will receive a discounted ticket. Or go online and book your tickets through http://www.passemuraille.on.ca or show up to 16 Ryerson Avenue tonight and buy your tickets at the door. Avec speed! Avec speed!

A Fabulous Disaster Lives Up To Its Name

denise clarke
“Tonight could be the first day of the rest of my life,” says the woman onstage clad in a strange white jumpsuit and military style boots, “Or last.” And thus begins One Yellow Rabbit’s (Calgary) production of A Fabulous Disaster, playing at Factory Theatre as part of its Performance Spring Festival until April 25th, 2010. The piece was created and is performed by Denise Clarke, an Associate Artist of One Yellow Rabbit since 1986 and A Fabulous Disaster has become her signature play. The programme touts this play as “Strange and beautiful, the show toils with love, jealousy, loneliness, acceptance and brilliant stupidity.”
Clarke’s unnamed protagonist is an exceptionally literary and articulate woman who appears to have a photographic memory. Her mind spins quickly, which propels her from thought to thought throughout her monologue in a way that sometimes appears haphazard to the audience, but it is firmly established that the connections are firm in this characters’ logic. It is immediately clear that she is somewhere in the wilderness of British Columbia and that she has placed herself in the midst of a ravaging forest fire in attempt to save the animals. She tells us that this was one of a sequence of stupid mistakes.
Amid a sea of stressed out people, our protagonist became distressed when she thought that she saw a small black cloud hanging in the tree in her backyard. As she says, when there is a small black cloud hanging in your tree it’s hard not to see it as portentous. It is soon revealed that this woman, like the animals she imagines running through the forest fires, is deeply wounded as she is mourning the collapse of her marriage. She tells us that her divorce was the second lesbian divorce in history, but it would have been better to be first; second is just a sad punch line.
With Clarke’s beautiful use of language and her wonderfully captivating performance, our protagonist shines with both strength and vulnerability as she weaves the tale for us of how she ended up in the forest among the fires. Her experience in speaking about the end of her marriage and how this launched a stupid telephone call to her ex boyfriend and a stupid plan for emotional revenge and the hope of reconciliation has a cleansing and cathartic element to it. At one point she sobs like a tired child, Clarke giving a perfect performance, and then she says, amid tears, “I accept that this experience is of the universe and a consequence of my own stupidity.” This monologue that we become privy to is an intensely personal and emotional moment in the life of a woman as she is forced to reconcile with her past in the face of the flames of the future.
A Fabulous Disaster is poignant and at times profound, but it is also a remarkably funny play. Clarke has brilliant comic timing and knows when to have her character undercut the solemnity of the situation with sheepish self-deprecating humour or a clever observation about the absurdity of the world. Beautiful imagery is also conjured up, such as how erotic it can be to see the books of two people who love each other intermingled with one another on a bookshelf.
Our protagonist is in deep physical pain, like the forest that surrounds her; her heart has been charred like a small animal. She muses on the dramatic deaths from opera and ballet and chooses to rectify one of her stupid mistakes, changing her absurd white paper suit for her birthday suit and then, elegantly, with crackling flames projected at the back of the stage, washed gracefully in dim gorgeous lighting, walks nude toward the fire, offering it her scorched heart, stunningly evocative of a phoenix on the cusp of rebirth.
A Fabulous Disaster plays until Sunday April 25th, 2010 at 2pm at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street), for more information or to book your tickets please call 416.504.9971 or go online to http://www.factorytheatre.ca

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Out of Hana’s Suitcase Flies Hope on Small Wings

l-r: amy lee, clarence sponagle
photo: iden ford photography

When I was little I used to think that a long time ago the whole world used to be in black and white. I would see old photographs and films and I would forget that the sky these people were looking at was the same blue sky sprawling over my head, that the grass was just as green, the sun shone just as brightly and that the world was actually bursting laden with colour even long ago. I always felt a sense of distance from this faraway black and white world, everything seemed greyer and grimmer. It seemed like something as horrific as the Holocaust could not possibly happen in a Technicolor world like mine. Yet, Holocaust education hinges on its ability to connect people with the stories of the individuals whose lives were ravaged by the Nazis and one suitcase which arrived at the Holocaust Education Centre in Tokyo, Japan has spawned an incredible outpouring of worldwide determination to continue to humanize the devastating statistics of how many innocent people were murdered in Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1945. Hana’s Suitcase, playing at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People until May 21st, 2010, is a play adapted by Emil Sher from the book of the same name by Karen Levine. It tells the story of how this suitcase came to uncover the life of one little girl who is now poised to teach children all over the world the importance of kindness, tolerance and peace.
Based on a true story, Hana’s Suitcase begins in Japan when two children, Maiko and Akira (members of The Small Wings, a club dedicated to promoting peace and tolerance) become fascinated with one particular exhibit on display at the Holocaust Education Centre, a suitcase from the Death Camp Auschwitz, on which is printed the name Hana Brady, her birth date and the word Waisenkind, which means orphan. With the help and support of the Executive Director of the Centre, Fumiko, the children embark on a mission to learn everything they can about this one child. Akira is immediately consumed with a desire to connect to Hana: did she like ice cream, where did she live, what did she do for fun. Maiko is determined to learn how and why a young girl like Hana was sent to Auschwitz and whether she was one of the only 240 children who survived.
The play addresses both Akira and Maiko’s interests by simultaneously focusing on the individuality of Hana and the things that present her as being an ordinary child who loves skating on the pond, skiing with her family and eating candies from her parents’ shop and by placing her within the larger historical context of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” As Fumiko and the children piece Hana’s past together, the play travels back in time to Czechoslovakia, allowing Hana and her brother George to speak for themselves. They have an especially beautiful scene together where they bury a glass bottle full of wishes just before they leave their home, in hopes of returning after the War and digging it up. It is devastating to think of all the wishes and prayers that seemed to fall on deaf ears at this time in history.
The performances in this play each encapsulate a generosity of spirit which stands in striking contrast to the historical events that are described through letters and research. Ginger Ruriko Busch plays Fumiko with kindness and dignity and a beautiful respect for everyone she encounters. Eric Trask is heartbreaking as Karel Brady, a father who wants desperately to allow his children their innocence. Patricia Vanstone is similarly affecting as Marketa Brady, Hana’s strong, brave and loving mother. Zoé Doyle is bright with an ardent zest for knowledge as young Maiko, although she is also often impatient and incredulous with Akira, who she sees as being less astute. Dale Yim as Akira provides some much needed lightness to the play with his relentless questions, exuberant energy and his naive perspective on the information that he is slowly digesting. Clarence Sponagle is charming and delightful as George Brady, a big brother full of hope and heart and Amy Lee as Hana is so winsome and precocious with generosity shining from every pore, you just want to pluck her up, hold her tightly and carry her off somewhere safe where she can get the happily ever after she deserves.
Allen MacInnis’ direction is both evocative and haunting. He has actors in overcoats with stars and caps wearing neutral masks represent the millions of “faceless” Jews who were shipped on freight trains and arrived at the Camps, which creates a disturbing sense of foreboding. He also makes good use of projected photographs, especially those that relate directly to Hana’s story and he also has the familiarly frightening sqreeching of trains on train sound effect as well as the reverberation of the slamming of the heavy door that sealed the fate of so many. There are many moments in this play to give a girl Goosebumps.
As a play, Hana’s Suitcase is a didactic one, but regardless, the emotional component of this play renders it entirely engaging. I find it so incredible that a suitcase that accompanied one child to her death has become the motivation for people from different cities and cultures around the world to work together to uncover Hana’s story. From the children in Japan to the museum workers in the Czech Republic to her brother George Brady who now lives in Toronto, Hana has brought these people together. At the same time, I found Akira and Maiko’s obsession with finding Hana at the exclusion of the other children a bit off putting. It is incredibly sad to look at the projected photographs of Hana Brady as an incredibly adorable and utterly beautiful child. It is gut-wrenching to look at drawings that she made in the Theresienstadt camp of people with suitcases awaiting to board trains. Yet, it is also important to remember the rest of the 1.5 million children who perished at the hands of the Nazis, for they all have stories just as evocative and devastating as Hana’s.
Hana’s Suitcase is a difficult play to listen to because it describes terrible atrocities that most of us, thankfully, are not even able to imagine. Yet, as Akira realizes in the play, despite the fact that it is difficult for us, it is the least we can do in the memory of those lost children, to ensure that we will never forget them. At the same time, George Brady has been quoted as saying that Hana’s Suitcase is, for him, a hopeful play, and I agree. As long as children continue to be passionately horrified and sadden by the unfairness, the cruelty and the injustice that was committed during the Holocaust, they will grow up to have the courage and the strength of character to speak out against intolerance, discrimination and violence. At eleven years old Hana Brady hoped to be a teacher and now, sixty-six years after he death, children from all over the world are flocking to her story and her suitcase, eager to connect and to learn. The theatre has pulled her out of that ominous black and white world so at least her memory can live on in Technicolor.
Hana’s Suitcase plays until May 21st, 2010 at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front Street East). It is considered suitable for children 10 years and older. I would advise informing all children about the subject matter before attending the play, and leaving some time for discussion of its themes and historical contexts afterwards. For more information about the play or to book your tickets please call 415.862.2222 or go online to http://www.lktyp.ca.
hana brady
Alabanza Sweet Hana. I’ll always remember you.

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