Friends! Happy March and Spring (if I write it, it will come). The new year has been busy and we are only now entering month three. Wow wee!
Wow Wee indeed. Nannette Deasy and the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble (IRTE) kicks off their 4th season with Wow Wee! Adventures of a Little Girl Robot which opens on March 7th for three Saturdays.
Nannette shares why she created the company and the many challenges and successes of producing improv as an ensemble company.
What was the impetus of IRTE?
I had been an actor in New York and an improviser for many years. Improvisational acting really appealed to me because of its playfulness, immediacy and rawness. I also loved the fact that I could just play whoever and whatever I wanted despite type or physical limitations. It was just so addictively fun!
I’d been a member of many improv groups and companies over the years, which I loved and continue to love (I’m involved with a bunch of other wonderful performance companies besides IRTE). However, as I started developing my own ideas about how a company could and should work, I decided to go ahead, take charge and do it. By having my own company, I could choose the performers and directors I enjoyed working with, liked and respected and implement the aesthetic I enjoyed. I really do love working with the other members of the ensemble and the guest performers and directors we’ve been lucky to get over the years
Before I started IRTE I’d also noticed something else, actually a lack of something that really interested me – I felt improv could be more theatrically staged (and more fun for general audiences that weren’t necessarily familiar with improv). I wanted to bring what I saw were the best elements of traditional theatre and meld them with what I saw happening in the improv community – the creativity, humor and spontaneity of live comedy improvisation; and the traditions, values and professionalism of traditional repertory theatre.
What I wanted was a tight ensemble of comedy performers who would all work collaboratively to develop, produce and perform original themed, theatrically-staged, and character-driven improvisational shows. Ultimately, I want to create a professional improvisational theatre, to reach beyond the common perception that improv is something only seen in “student” productions offered by training programs. I firmly believe that improvisational theatre can exist on the same professional level as scripted commercial theatre.
How has the company grown over the last four years?
Since we have such a small budget, we in the company all work very hard behind the scenes to self-produce. Over the years, we’ve learned to handle our own budgeting, video production, photography, marketing materials, and other operational tasks – in addition to performing and directing!
There’s been a huge learning curve, of course, and it seems that with each year, we learn a little bit more. When we first started out, we were performing in bars and as guests of other shows. That certainly was a very budget-friendly way to begin. However, while more expensive, we’ve found it’s better to rent our own theatre space, over which we can have some control. Plus, It’s much better for maintaining a consistent audience than when you’re jumping around from place to place. Sometimes, you also get what you pay for. One venue we performed at was shut down by the fire department right before a performance. This was the same place where I had regular run ins with the host of a stand up open mic night that didn’t understand why they couldn’t go over their time by an hour or so. Another bar was very welcoming but we were competing with the constant din of karaoke just outside the room.
Since our inception, we have created fourteen completely original shows (with five more currently in development), performed in ten national festivals, featured up and coming indie musical artists, hosted workshops, and have received increased recognition from the downtown New York theatre community and the national improvisation scene. We’ve been super lucky!!
Was there a moment when you considered taking a break or doing something else?
Ha! Yes! Every year just as our Season is coming to an end and we’re all exhausted! … but then we get invited to a really fun festival or I start missing performing with my IRTE friends or someone in the group floats a new bizarre idea for a show and I start looking towards the future.
What keeps you and the company going?
…that this, ultimately, is way more fun than the alternative.
WHEN: Saturdays March 7, 14 and 21
Season Pass and Group Discounts available
Visit http://www.irteinfo.com for more information.