Phelim McDermott is a prolific, award-winning performer-director and an Artistic Director of the ingenious Improbable theatre company (UK). All of Phelim’s theatre-making has been profoundly influenced by Keith Johnstone’s teaching and methodology. In this interview, Phelim talks about Life Game, the format Keith created that has remained an important part of Improbable’s repertoire since 1998. He talks about how impro helped create the text of Shockheaded Peter (1998), the Olivier Award-winning junk opera that Phelim directed and helped conceive. Finally, for over a decade, Phelim has been directing the operas of Philip Glass (Satyagraha, Akhnaten, The Perfect American) for the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, English National Opera, and elsewhere. www.improbable.co.uk
As part of the On Keith docuseries, short clips of Keith Johnstone will be released periodically offering a glimpse into the world of Keith beyond the formal theatre classroom. These are excerpts taken from footage shot by the On Keith documentary team. This first excerpt is part of the filming the team did in Calgary in 2019 where you also get to see Co-director, Theresa Robbins Dudeck discuss Keith's artwork such as the 5000 Faces Challenge that Keith had embarked on years ago.
Barbixas, the famous impro troupe based in São Paulo, Brazil, has performed in more than 80 cities in Latin America and Europe, in very large theatres, and almost always to sold-out houses. Their live show, “Improvável,” which uses a format similar to “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” has been seen by over a million people. Every week, Barbixas uploads content from the live shows to their YouTube channel, which was listed in 2010 as one of the 100 most viewed web series in the world. They now have over 3 million subscribers and their videos get 14 million hits each month. In this interview before a sold-out show in Belo Horizonte, Barbixas (Daniel Nascimento, Anderson Bizzochi, and Elidio Sanna) speak about their work, based in Johnstone’s methods, as orginally taught to them by their first teacher, the celebrated clown/improviser Marcio Ballas; and then about their journey to Calgary in 2011 to study with the Keith himself, “The Pope of Impro,” and why that ten-day workshop was a game-changer for their process and how they engage with their benevolent Brazilian audiences.
Patti Stiles is an actor, improviser, director, instructor, playwright, and co-Artistic Director of Impro Melbourne, Australia. She trained under Keith Johnstone as a Loose Moose Theatre Company member and is now one of the most sought after experts on Johnstone’s impro system of training (as Deborah Frances-White points out in her interview!). In this episode, Patti shares how Keith works as a teacher, director, and playwright. She also articulates what separates Johnstone-trained improvisers from others and, most importantly, how Keith masterfully and gently applies systematic desensitization-type tools to help student improvisers overcome their fears on stage.
Jonathan Pryce, versatile award-winning actor of stage and screen, speaks on his early improvisation classes with Keith Johnstone at RADA, how impro “released any inhibitions” he had, how it is integrated into his actor process, and why it is important for actor training. Pryce recently portrayed Pope Francis in The Two Popes, earning him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Other recent film and television credits include Game of Thrones (High Sparrow), Wolf Hall (Cardinal Wolsey), and The Wife (opposite Glenn Close). He is also known for his Tony and Olivier Award-winning performances on Broadway and the West End (Comedians, Hamlet, Miss Saigon).
This interview with playwright Mark Ravenhill was filmed at the Royal Court Theatre, where Mark’s first full-length play, Shopping and Fucking, had its premier in 1996. Since that explosive debut, Mark has become one of Britain’s most distinctive contemporary playwrights. In 2012, he was the Writer in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in 2018 he was back at the Royal Court with his new play The Cane, and most recently he wrote the book for the musical adaptation of The Boy in the Dress, produced by RSC in 2019.
Deborah Frances-White: On Podcasting & Screenwriting
Deborah Frances-White is a London-based comedian, author, screenwriter, and host of the award-winning podcast The Guilty Feminist. She won a Writers Guild Award for her BBC Radio 4 series Deborah Frances-White Rolls the Dice and the 2018 film she wrote, Say My Name, continues to win awards at festivals around the world. Deborah also co-authored The Improv Handbook and is in high demand as a facilitator of seminars for major corporations.
Dennis Cahill: On Theatresports & Impro for Acting
Dennis Cahill is Artistic Director of The Loose Moose Theatre in Calgary and one of its founding company members. Keith Johnstone passed the AD torch to Dennis in 1998 and Dennis has continued to produce, direct, and develop innovative improvisational theatre and train students who travel great distances to study at the famous Loose Moose, the original home of Theatresports. Dennis has also toured the world as a performer and master teacher of impro.