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History of The World

History of The World

National Theatre of the World – History and Mandate

First Poster

Our first poster for The Carnegie Hall Show in 2008 when we were still called The National Theatre of Canada

Once established in October of 2008 by Second City alums Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus along with Mad TV alumnus Ronald Pederson and firecracker Kayla Lorette, NTOW began to produce itʼs very first show, Impromptu Splendor at Comedy Bar in Toronto. From its earliest incarnation, Impromptu Splendor (The Improvised Play) has always delivered a fresh, artful and provoking spectacle brought to life in the fashion of a one act play. The focus is on its cunning actors and their mastery of narrative and style. For this show, two award winning wizards of instant theatre and NTOW Co-Artistic Producers, Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram unite as a crack team to improvise a never before seen play based on audience suggestions.

Shortly after launching Impromptu Splendour, the company joined forces with comedic genius Chris Gibbs and began to produce a weekly improvised meta-variety show, The Carnegie Hall Show (The Improvised Retrospective) at The Bread and Circus in Kensington Market, complete with song, circus acts, special guests and an improvised radio play, all executed with the grandeur of The Kennedy Centre Honors.

In January of 2009 the cast began teaching workshops to students, focusing on acting in improvisation. The cast of Impromptu Splendor went down to three with the departure of Kayla Lorette and who would be replaced by a long list of guest artists from the theatre community. After a highly acclaimed run at The Summerworks Theatre Festival, Impromptu Splendor found a permanent home in March of 2009 when the company was invited by Artistic Director, Andy McKim to produce its monthly show at the legendary Theatre Passe Muraille. The companyʼs first show was improvised in the style of Tennessee Williams with special guest Fiona Reid. Soon after, Impromptu Splendor took to the road after being invited to the Chicago Improv Festival where they performed with special guest Joe Flaherty (of SCTV fame). In 2009, Impromptu Splendor was the recipient of The Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe.

The very first cast of Impromptu Splendor standing outside Clinton's Tavern in Toronto. Pictured are the original four members from left to right: Kayla Lorette, Ronald Pederson, Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus. (2008)

The very first cast of Impromptu Splendor standing outside Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto. Pictured are the original four members from left to right: Kayla Lorette, Ronald Pederson, Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus. (2008)

In 2010, NTOW teemed up with Summerworks again when they were asked to host the first incarnation of the performance bar at The Lower Ossington Theatre. The show was called Fiasco Playhouse and offered ten wild nights of collaborative mashups of music, theatre and performance along with Torontoʼs Best Live acts. The company collided with everyone from new vaudevillians to dangerous performance artists for an often hilarious but alway unpredictable extravaganza. In September of 2010, throngs of film fans gathered in downtown Toronto to witness the opening of the TIFF Bell Lightbox and the event was hosted by The National Theatre of The World. In 2010, The Carnegie Hall Show was the recipient of The Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe and Naomi Snieckus received the Best Female Improviser Award.

In 2011, NTOW produced two more shows, The Script Tease Project and The Soaps! (A Live Improvised Soap Opera). In May of 2011, The Script Tease Project enjoyed a week long run at Theatre Passe Murailleʼs Backspace and played to sold out audiences. The showʼs concept borrows from the NTOW flagship show, Impromptu Splendor with some dangerous twists added to the mix. The company asks renowned playwrights from Canada and beyond to pen the first two pages of a new play…only two (A tease). Those pages were sealed in an envelope. Each night the actors open up an envelope (having never seen its contents before), read it cold, and completely improvise the rest. The cast have finished plays started by Brad Fraser, Mark McKinney, Daniel McIvor Judith Thompson, Morris Panych, Woody Harrelson, John Patrick Shanley, Hannah Moscovitch, Linda Griffiths, Norm Foster and the list is growing.

In July of 2011, with help from world class improviser Christy Bruce, The National Theatre of The World assembled Torontoʼs most prolific comedic improvisers and created an ongoing improvised episodic packed with drama, romance, intrigue and betrayal and simply called it The Soaps! After a successful inaugural season at Comedy Bar, the troupe was invited to participate in the Toronto Fringe as a benefit show for the festival called Shawford-On-The-Pond which played to sold out houses at The Bathurst Street Theatre. In 2011, The National Theatre of The World was the recipient of The Canadian Comedy Award for Best Improv Troupe for the second time and Ronald Pederson received the Best Male Improviser Award.

2012 marked a shift in the direction of NTOW as the company still valued itʼs improvisational roots but started to focus on scripted work as well. In June of 2012, an improvised play that NTOW produced in Halifax at The Super-Nova Festival entitled Depression Shaped Like a Hill was published in an anthology called New Canadian Realisms edited by Roberta Barker and Kim Solga. The summer was packed with touring and another sold out run of The Script Tease Project. In November, Co-Artistic Producers Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus were invited to perform at Toronto Sketch Fest where they performed original sketch at The Lower Ossington Theatre. In December, NTOW produced their first scripted musical at Passe Muraille called Itʼs a Wonderful Toronto as part of their Theatre Beyond Walls season. In 2012 Matt Baram received the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Male Improvisor.

Our Now Cover from 2010 when we hosted the first Performance Bar at Summerworks.

Our Now Cover from 2010 when we hosted the first Performance Bar at Summerworks.

In 2013, NTOW became a company in residence with Soulpepper and once again produced The Script Tease Project, this time in the Tankhouse Theatre. Their partnership with Soulpepper led to many projects including the invention of the Impulse Festival. From December 12th to the 15th, The Young Centre for the Performing Arts played host to eight improvisational troupes from seven countries around the world. The festival featured groups from Germany, India, England, France, Canada, Australia, and Austria who each performed their signature showcases, joined NTOW in mashup performances and also offered workshops of varying intensity to patrons and theatre professionals. Plus they hosted a 55 hour long improvised soap opera marathon to raise money for Gildaʼs Club Toronto. In 2013 and 2014, Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus were asked to host The Dora Mavor Moore Awards which celebrate achievement in Toronto Theatre, Opera and Dance.

Throughout it all, the company has performed at the Los Angeles Improv Festival, The Barrow Street Theatre in New York, The Edmonton International Improv Festival, The International Improvisation Theatre Festival in Amsterdam, The Supernova Festival in Halifax, Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton, The Grand Theatre in London, The Piccolo Festival in Charleston South Carolina, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in Winnipeg, The Yukon Arts Centre, The Calgary Comedy Festival, The Regina Improv Festival, Det Andre Theatret in Oslo and all over Ontario. The Berlin Improvisation Festival is a highlight where the company represented Canada and not only received standing ovations for Impromptu Splendor but have been asked to return in 2013 and 2014. Their show The Script Tease Project is now produced by other improvisational companies around the globe and The National Theatre of The World is recognized and respected for having the highest standards for improvisational theatre in the world.

Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram hosting The Dora Mavor Moore Awards in 2013.

Naomi and Matt hosting The Dora Awards in 2013. Waylen Miki on piano.

NTOWʼs Mandate

The National Theatre of the World (NTOW) is a multi-disciplinary, Toronto-based, not-for-profit theatre company that creates exciting, provocative, and instantaneous theatre through the art of improvisation. Founded in 2008, by Co-Artistic Directors Matt Baram, Ron Pederson and Naomi Snieckus, NTOWʼs mandate is the creation of new Canadian work that encourages the theatre and improvisation communities to come together. Through the production of three different shows: Impromptu Splendor (The Live Improvised Play), The Carnegie Hall Show (The Improvised Retrospective), The Script Tease Project, and Impulse Festival (in association with Soulpepper Theatre), NTOW bridges the gap between theatre and improvisation by creating vivid, dramatic and complex full-length plays, radio dramas, sketch shows and inter-disciplinary variety shows.

NTOWʼs Mission

NTOWʼs mission is to bring people together in the community for a theatrical experience that is collaborative, professional, inspiring and fun for both audience and performers. Our vision is as follows: To be the pre-eminent theatrical improvisation/ sketch company in Canada. To establish an international reputation for excellence in Canadian improvisational theatre by creating shows in Canada and taking them to international stages. NTOW bridges the gap between theatre, improv and sketch/scenic comedy through creating performances of an artistic nature in public places, theatres, community centres, international festivals and educational institutions in order to educate and increase the public’s understanding of the arts, in particular comedy. NTOW also reaches out to educate the public through comedy/improv workshops, instructional seminars, demonstrations and other events.

Artistic Director Note:

The National Theatre of the World celebrated our 7 year anniversary in October. In reflecting on those seven years, I am amazed and humbled by how much Naomi I, (Matt Baram) have been able to accomplish. This year, our company took the leap into our first scripted format with Baram and Snieckus: You and Me Both. We were incredeibly encouraged by our sold out run at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto and it felt right to revisit our sketch comedy roots.  Naomi and I fist met at Toronto’s Second City and we cut our teeth there together. Looking towards 2016, we will continue to write and perform our unique brand of comedy as well as oversee our improvisation based formats that are still being performed all over the world. Thank you to all of our loyal fans and supporters!