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Posts tagged Ron Pederson

Photo © Robyn Bacon

Matt Stone and Trey Parker worked on The Book of Mormon for seven years. One Night Only: The Greatest Musical Never Written achieves greatness in one night – with no script, no pre-planned choreography, and no clue what the show will be about until the audience tells them.

Created by Alan Kliffer and directed by Melody Johnson, One Night Only is the most ambitious improv spectacle I’ve seen in a decade. When cast member Jan Caruana nudged an audience member who was slow to give a suggestion, saying “It’s a two-hour show,” I thought she was joking.

As the show progressed – the night I went was dubbed “Nerd Alert: The Musical” – it seemed impossible that they could keep the energy, laughs, and all those improvised balls in the air for a second act.

How wrong I was.

The talented cast of Ashley Botting, Jan Caruana, Reid Janisse, Carly Heffernan, Ron Pederson and Alex Tindal performed like a well-oiled machine: one that was being built right before our eyes.

Unlike most improv shows where everything’s mimed, the characters were enhanced with a few well-chosen props. My favourite was Reid Janisse’s fluttering lace fan – a hilarious counterpoint to his Randall character’s menacing megalomania.

The story revolved around Caruana as Linda Johanssen a.k.a. Debbie Dynamite and Pederson as her long-lost love, Gavin. Botting and Janisse played Equestria and Stable Boy (a.k.a. Randall), Dynamite’s rivals who eventually leave show biz for horseplay of a different kind.

Scenes were punchy and playful, culminating in a show-stopping number where all six players came together for a song called “More,” made all the more awe-inspiring for its on-the-spot harmonies.

Special props must go to the orchestra. With back-up vocals from Kevin Vidal and Miriam Drysdale, musicians Ewan Divitt, Jake Koffman, Dave Stein, and Justin Han were every bit as (forgive me) instrumental in the creation of what happened on stage.

Besides their musical chops, they knew just when to cue the next number, and were clearly having fun with the cast. While Ashley Botting’s pipes never fail to astound, it was Ron Pederson who stole show after being badgered into one more solo by the band.

One Night Only has been playing to packed houses, and runs until February 14. Avoid disappointment; book now.

“Did you ever give her an orgasm?” “Well, not in the same room.” Ron Pederson and Matt Baram in Why, Julia?

In a city filled with stellar comedic talent, Toronto’s Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus and Ron Pederson (aka The National Theatre of the World) are something special.

Last night they performed Why, Julia?, an improvised play inspired by playwright and “drag queen extraordinaire,” Sky Gilbert. As part of this year’s Script Tease Project, the show was a sold-out success.

The players began by getting suggestions from the audience, including Bill C-32, a student’s rejection from Ryerson University, and body parts being mailed to Parliament Hill.

You know, the usual.

The performers then read two pages of “teaser” script, and were off (book) and running.

The play opened with Snieckus as Julia, apparently bringing herself to orgasm with a colander. Pederson played her oddball ex, Roland, while Baram took the role of anal-retentive boyfriend Barry.

With Gilbert’s bawdy intro and the audience suggestions, the threesome wove a tale of love, sex and kitchen utensils, the like of which has never been seen onstage. Or probably will again.

Besides being top-notch improvisers, Baram, Snieckus and Pederson are skilful actors. It truly was improvised theatre: a blend of comedy and drama, as good in parts as any Mamet play.

The Script Tease Project runs till Sunday, with shows based on scripts by six more playwrights.

Illustration © Kurt Firla

Photo © May Truong

The Premise: Ask well-known writers to pen two pages of a play, read them cold onstage, then improvise the rest of the play on the spot.

It’s the kind of thing that could go very, very wrong if the players weren’t very, very good.

Fortunately the players are The National Theatre of The Worldaka Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus and Ron Pederson.

Last year’s run was a smashing success, with works by Judith Thompson, Daniel MacIvor, and everyone’s favourite hemp merchant, Woody Harrelson. Now they’re back with a fresh batch of writers, including ex-Kid In The Hall, Scott Thompson.

I asked Naomi Snieckus for the low-down.

P&C: How did you come up with the idea?

NS: The Script Tease Project was invented to give a twist to our regular Impromptu Splendor format, to give us an extra challenge and to collaborate with excellent playwrights. NTOW is always looking for ways of incorporating theatre and improv in our work.

P&C: Do you know all the playwrights you’ve approached, or were some of them cold calls?

NS: We essentially made a wish list and sent letters. Edward Albee turned us down – but now I can say “I got an email from Edward Albee…or at least his assistant.” John Patrick Shanley from last year was through a friend of a friend of a friend. There were a lot of people we’d never met before but hoped they would be into a project like this.

P&C: What was your favourite play from last year, and why?

NS: That’s hard to choose they all had a different kind of magic. Mark McKinney’s was the weirdest and most stylized, Brad Fraser’s was the most fantastical, John Patrick Shanley’s was the most touching. They were all amazing for different reasons.

P&C: Do you find it easier having someone else establish your character for you, or is it harder than doing a regular improv show?

NS: The biggest challenge is processing the torrent of information in the two pages and retaining it. It’s harder than starting from scratch because you have to adhere to a specific structure with a particular tone and musical key. The playwright is making your original choices for you. It sounds helpful to be given the two pages, but it makes our brains work in a new and different way.

P&C: You’ve been playing together for a long time. How important is chemistry in putting on a great performance?

NS: We’ve put in hundreds of hours together, so the shorthand and like-mindedness has become quite keen. We also know how to challenge each other on stage to mix it up. So to answer your question: very. It’s a pretty exciting thing to share the stage with those two performers!

The show runs May 28 – June 3 at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.