Q&A: The Script Tease Project

The National Theatre of the World's Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus expose their creative parts in The Script Tease Project

Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus. Photo: David Leyes.

Described as "an actor's nightmare and a playwright's dream," The National Theatre of the World's The Script Tease Project mixes traditional theatre with improv to create a whole new kind of playgoing experience. Co-creators Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus are bringing the popular show back from June 4 to 8 as part of a three-year Soulpepper residency at the Young Centre. Each night the energetic duo will open an envelope containing two pages of a new play by a celebrated Canadian writer (this year's lineup includes Judith Thompson, Zaib Shaikh, Guillermo Verdecchia, Richard Greenblatt, Jason Sherman, Lewis Black and Rick Mercer) and read the pages for the first time live on stage. The rest of the play will be completely improvised (with a little help from the audience, of course).

We caught up with Baram and Snieckus to find out more about this exciting theatrical experiment.

Theatromania: How did you first come up with the idea for The Script Tease Project?

MB & NS: We were working on a spin to our improvised play series, Impromptu Splendor, where we improvise a complete play based on a famous playwright style. It occurred to us that we know a bunch of really talented writers in our community and beyond and we were thinking of a way to have their work inform our improv. The idea of getting them to write two pages came from a Stewart Lemoine concept in Edmonton where he gets kids to write mini plays for actors to perform. Then we thought that just a tease from the playwrights was all we needed; hence the title, The Script Tease Project.

Theatromania: Can you tell us about the process of selecting playwrights/scripts?

MB & NS: It’s not a selection process really. We ask our talented friends if they are up to the challenge of writing our teasers and those who reply make up our roster. We try to include a variety of styles, gender and cultural background but our list usually ends up being determined by who has time and the inclination for the adventure.

Theatromania: What is the best part about improvising the first two pages of seven new plays? The biggest challenge?

MB & NS: It’s an immediate way for us to get the chance to collaborate with some incredibly talented writers. Some folks have to wait years to say that they get to do a Judith Thompson play. We basically cast ourselves in their latest work.

The greatest challenge is improvising based on someone else’s launching point. There is absolutely zero opportunity for us to plan anything. Since we read the pages cold, we are completely at the whim of their suggestions.

Theatromania: What can audiences expect from this experience?

MB & NS: With styles ranging from writers like Rick Mercer and Guillermo Verdecchia, each night is going to be very unique and mind-blowing fun. The audience participates a little too as they offer suggestions to bring a sense of immediacy to our plays. Although the pages are written by the playwright, it becomes a collaborative process between actors, writers, and audience. Last year, Ins Choi wrote a play about a twenty foot bird. Who knows what’s coming our way.

Theatromania: You have been chosen to host the 34th Annual Dora Mavor Moore Awards, what excites you most about this opportunity?

MB & NS: Most of it is written. After doing all of these improvised plays, it will be a welcome comfort to have Chris Earle and Waylen Miki help us write some solid jokes. Also it’s a real honour to be welcomed into the theatre community. Our goal at NTOW has always been to bridge the gap between theatre and improvisation and it looks like that goal is becoming realized an all fronts these days.

Theatromania: What else is going on with The National Theatre of the World?

MB & NS: If audiences are looking for a more casual improv experience, NTOW is hosting some fun all-star shows at The Drake Hotel on the last Wednesday of every month starting on May29th with a show called
I Seen You On TV.

We are currently scheming with our new Soulpepper family to bring a bunch of our international guests from a four-day Long Form Festival in December of 2013. Stay tuned!

The Script Tease Project runs from June 4 to 8 at the Young Centre for the Perfoming Arts. Visit youngcentre.ca for more information and to buy tickets.


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