The comedians behind the National Theatre of the World don’t mess around when it comes to road trips. When we spoke to the Torontans earlier today, they were just recovering from a straight 18-hour drive from the Great White North that landed them in Charleston around midnight. They were back in the car when we spoke, trying to find their way to Theatre 99. In between helping them navigate our historic streets, I got a few hints about their show, which opens tonight and runs through June 5.
As we mentioned in the preview article published last week, the trio —Naomi Snieckus, Ronald Pederson, and Matt Baram — bases their improvised shows off the works of various famous playwrights. For their Charleston run, they’re channeling David Mamet (May 31), Tennessee Williams (June 1), Oscar Wilde (June 3), Sam Shepherd (June 4), and Anton Chekhov (June 5).
“They’re sort of the biggest names that we have, the most recognizable,” Pederson says. “We sort of want to give a greatest hits when we go to a festival. Maybe not pick the most obscure.”
Not a theater nerd? Not to worry.
“Part of the thing is it doesn’t matter if the audience doesn’t know the playwright’s work at all,” Pederson says. “It’s just a launching off point for us, a parameter within which to improvise.
“The laughs don’t come from a parody of the style,” he adds. “It’s basically a launching point in the same way a word would be a launching point for an improv company. We often use style as the place to take off because it informs you so much about the character and the place.”
Like more typical improv shows, they use a short session with the audience for inspiration.
“Every piece of theater is dated as soon as it’s produced and put on, but an improvised theater is happening right now, and we are basing what we are saying on what the audience is thinking, what’s going on in their lives,” Pederson says.
Although every show should be solid, Pederson is especially looking forward to the Tennessee Williams show.
“I think it’s funny for us northern Canadians to come down South and do some Tennessee Williams,” he laughs. “That one to me is the most exciting to be able to do.”
Check out the video they made in anticipation for the show.