Meet a Comedy Troupe: The National Theatre of the World
In just four years, The National Theatre of the World has proven itself to be one of Toronto’s top groups of funny makers. Combining theatre with comedy and music, the multi-talented company produces four popular improvised shows (Impromptu Splendor, The Carnegie Hall Show, The Soaps, and The Script Tease Project) in hopes of bridging the gap between theatre and improv.
We chatted with co-founder Naomi Snieckus about the troupe’s start, what’s next for them and what it was like working with Martin Short.
Ronald Pederson, Naomi Snieckus, Matt Baram, Chris Gibbs, Christy Bruce, Scott Christian and Naomi Wright are known as The Core. Other cast members include: Jim Annan, Lisa Brooke, Jan Caruana, Sandy Jobin Bevans and Lisa Merchant.
Anyone who’s an interesting theatre artist. We get inspired all the time by comedians in the community. Colin Mochrie is one, for sure. He’s come to perform with us before. He’s a great improviser, but a great actor too. The Kids in the Hall. Crumbs. They’re awesome; they’re great and patient improvisers. Improvised Shakespeare. They’re amazing, they blow my mind.
How did your troupe come about?
Matt [Baram] and I were at The Second City together and Ron Pederson was kicking around and Matt said to me: “We should work with this guy.” Then Comedy Bar opened up and they needed shows to fill the space and Gary Rideout Jr. said we could do some shows. Ron and I have a background in theatre; acting came first, before improv, and we wanted to add a quality to the acting of the show. We wanted to do something out of the ordinary. We wanted to do acting and improv and we liked the chemistry that we had together.
How would you describe your style?
Our mandate is to connect theatre with improv. It’s important for us to do professional improv. We call it theatre-based improv.
What’s the hardest thing about doing a show like yours?
One of the trickiest things is the division of producing, creating and performing. As the producer, you have one brain and as a performer, you have another brain. I’m getting better at that now. That’s the most challenging thing. The shows themselves are awesome and fun.
Biggest Achievement to Date:
Every time we get to produce a show. Any time you’re self-producing a show, it’s a huge achievement. We’re doing a show in New York at the Barrow Street Theatre, so that’s a huge thing. I guess you could say the biggest achievement is the community recognition and involvement we get.
The Soaps was at last year’s Fringe. How was that experience?
It was a huge success. They had huge crowds. It was really fun. It’s fun to have a run like that because you get a rhythm going. And we had special guests come in, too. The Fringe has been really good to us over the years.
Will you be returning this year to the Fringe? We’re taking the summer off. Since we’ve started, the past three summers have been crazy busy. We did three festivals each summer. So now we’re doing individual projects, in addition to The National Theatre of the World, so we’ve got a lot going on.
Speaking of individual projects, you’re also co-starring on the CBC show Mr. D. How do you balance those gigs with The National Theatre of the World?
We filmed that in the summer, so I missed The Soaps and the Fringe. But the great thing about our company and improv is that we can change it around, we can do two-handers [instead of three] and we have an amazing cast roster. We also have special guests coming in to help out. Paying gigs come first, but we can accommodate each other.
What’s next on the horizon for the troupe?
Impromptu Splendor will be playing on Feb. 26 in the style of Charles Dickens for his birthday, and members of the amazing award-winning sketch group Falcon Powder will be joining us. Then in March, we’re headed to Amsterdam and Berlin. Also in March, every Friday, we’re doing Carnegie Hall at The Second City as the late night show. I think Scott Thompson and Ron Sexsmith might be our guests, but I can’t confirm it yet. Then Script Tease at Theatre Passe Muraille. Last year, Mark McKinney and Woody Harrelson wrote us pages, so we’re looking to get some cool playwrights for this year.
You can be seen on Martin Short’s upcoming CBC comedy special, I, Martin Short, Goes Home. How was that experience?
He’s so sweet. It’s one of those ‘pinch me’ moments, and he is one of our heroes. It’s an incredible to be apart of it. It’s really funny. It’s Martin Short at his best and his most surprising. It’s so fast, it’s so funny. He’s an inspiration to us for sure. He’s incredible and the guy’s 61 years old.