National Theatre Of The World’s Script Tease Project bares all
The National Theatre Of The World’s Script Tease Project bares all
By Steve Fisher May 24, 2012 at AVclub.com Toronto
Most improv troupes prove to the audience that they’re working in real-time by asking for suggestions—a location, or a characteristic—and incorporating them into scenes. A cynic might suspect the suggestions are “plugged” into prepared comedy structures, and to a certain degree, that can be the case. But for their Script Tease Project, The Toronto chapter of the National Theatre Of The World goes to extreme lengths to challenge themselves. They don’t just ask for suggestions from random audience members; theirs are written in advance (and unknown to them until showtime) by accomplished writers. This year, celebrity contributors include playwriting heavyweights Michael Healey and Sky Gilbert, rising stars Anusree Roy and Ins Choi, and even Kids In The Hall alumni Scott Thompson.
“Improv is a delicate thing—I either hate it or I love it,” muses Scott Thompson. “I hate it when it’s tricks, or an acting exercise. But I like the way they do it. They tell stories; it’s not just about the laughs, though they’re very funny.” Fellow Kid In The Hall Mark McKinney contributed to 2011’s inaugural Script Tease Project, and Thompson is looking forward to doing the same—and hopes to contribute something absurdist. “Looking at the rest of the writers, they probably won’t be writing an absurdist beginning.” He stresses that this doesn’t mean his contribution will be random jokes. “There’s a lot of random comedy around today, but that’s not the same as absurdist. Absurdist theatre has to have its own logic.”
Five-time Dora Mavor Moore Award-winner Anusree Roy has a definite idea for her two pages, though she’s mum on details. “I’m nervous! With just two pages, I have to give them some solid stakes right away, so they know what they’re playing.” Roy’s a longtime fan of the Nation Theatre Of The World. “One of my favourites was their Judith Thompson. After that show, I thought, ‘I would love for them to do something with my work.’ When they contacted me, I felt like I was a legitimate writer. I don’t write comedy. So I don’t think anything in the two pages will be funny. But they’ll take it where it needs to go.”
Snieckus agrees. Making the end product funny or coherent will be the performers’ job. “We wanted to make sure we included writers who’ll take us in exciting directions. Scott’s a great example. He hasn’t written plays, but he’s an incredible writer. The Kids In The Hall are all heroes to us. It’s amazing to me that we get to collaborate with all these people, that they all said, ‘That sounds cool.’”
Baram particularly loves that, unlike with Impromptu Splendor, the playwrights are aware of what’s going to happen to their work, which could lead to unexpected surprises. “Theatre is a collaborative process. And it feels more spontaneous when, well, it is spontaneous.”