BWW Interviews: Naomi Snieckus - Uncensored, Uninhibited and Un-rehearsed
The crazy and talented trio that make up The National Theatre of the World are bringing back The Script Tease Project - on all week at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. A unique blend of theatre and improvisation, The Script Tease Project will once again feature the work of ten brilliant playwrights who have created material especially for this endeavour.
The National Theatre of the World is compromised of Matt Baram, Ron Pederson and Naomi Snieckus, a trio who have been working together for four years and lived together for three. They’ve built a trust and a short-hand with each other that makes for brilliant improvisation, and this year they are stripping down and getting more daring than ever before.
The ten playwrights have each written two pages of a brand new work and sealed it in an envelope to be opened in front of the audience right before the production. At this point Matt, Ron and Naomi will read the play aloud and then proceed to improvise the rest of the story. They are provided with a few ‘hints’ so that they can prepare (such as set pieces, suggestions for accents etc) but otherwise are left to create everything in that moment in front of a live audience. It’s daring, it’s brave, it’s a little bit crazy – it’s The Script Tease Project!
Participating this year are Maja Ardal, Michael Healey, Anusree Roy, Sky Gilbert, Karen Hines, Lee MacDougall, Scott Thompson, Adam Pettle, Ins Choi and John Murrell. BWW sat down to chat with Naomi about the project, and what ensued was a hilarious examination of the difficult nature of improvisation, the supportive nature of the Toronto theatre community, and what can be expected from the playwrights:
Congratulations on the second year of The Script Tease Project! Could you give us a ‘Improv for Dummies’ explanation of what this show entails?
Well, it’s ten plays in seven days, and we asked ten playwrights to write two pages of a brand new play for two men and a woman. On each night we’re going to open an envelope, read them aloud and improvise the rest in front of the audience. It’s a flying leap sort of thing.
Do you prepare ahead of time for something like this?
We do have some choices made ahead of time. Things like the set and the costumes for example. And accents! Today I’m learning that my Kazakhstan accent is still a bit lacking. And we need to learn East Indian accents. Karen Hines wants a simple set with a white ottoman while Anusuree Roy wants a hut! Sky Gilbert wants a kitchen and Scott Thompson apparently plans to participate in his play. Oh, and Adam Pettle requires photos of b-list celebrities and a corned beef sandwich. Basically we have a little bit of information for each play so that we can prepare ourselves, but everything else is a surprise.
How did you choose the playwrights?
Well last year we had a killer group and we decided we weren’t going to repeat anyone. So we looked around and made a dream list and pretty much everyone on our list said yes. It’s cool because they don’t even have to be based in Toronto in order to be a part of it. In fact, we almost got Edward Albee! Wouldn’t that have been cool? I got an email back from him where he said that he would need to come and see our work before he decided if he could work with us and all I could think was ‘well that’s not a complete no!’
Have you ever thought about doing a version of the show with composers and doing musicals instead of plays?
We actually have thought about doing a whole season with a musical theme, but it would have to have a very different approach because it would be hard reading music cold for the first time. In January we’re going out to the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre where we’re going to do a whole show of Sondheim’s work. That will be challenging! Because clearly, what we’re doing isn’t quite hard enough *laughs*
It must be really rewarding to have all these playwrights say yes to you – almost like they’re giving an endorsement of your work?
Absolutely. The fact that they said yes is incredible and a huge endorsement of what we do. We have these people who we grew up with or studied in theatre school and admired and they all agreed to take their time to support this endeavour. It also recognizes our community – we have a really wonderful community. Whenever we ask people to help us they’ve always been there for us. Ted Dykstra was one of our first guests, and whenever Colin Mochrie isn’t off being a huge superstar he’s always willing to help. We’re in constant awe of the support we’ve received.
Be honest – have you ever had something go really wrong?
In improv you hope things go wrong because it’s exciting. People come because they want to see things go wrong and they want to see how we get ourselves out of tricky situations. They want conflict and surprises. And we are surprised from the moment we open the envelope to the very end of the evening.
You really have to be a brave individual to do something like that don’t you? How do you handle it?
I think I’ve become comfortable not knowing. I’ve been doing it for awhile and I enjoy the surprise element of what we do. We do advance research so we don’t feel like we’re up there unprepared and so that we can support the play these people have written. And our ‘rehearsal’ time is just spending time together and developing our improv skills. We have a huge amount of trust and that’s key.
Finally, what would you say to encourage a younger audience to come and see the show?
I think that younger audiences are used to instant gratification, always being able to change the channel or watch five minute YouTube videos and flip to something else. Our show is kinda like that, we’re always flipping into something else and it’s constantly surprising. So I think they will really like it.
When and Where?
The National Theatre of the World presents The Script Tease Project
May 28th – June 3rd
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
Shows are at 8PM except for Friday June 1st at 7:30PM and Sunday June 3rd at 2PM
Tickets can be purchased by phone at 416-504-7529 or in person at the box office
For more information please visit their website at http://www.thenationaltheatreoftheworld.com/The_ScriptTease_Project.html