When we're approaching the beginning of our touring season there are elements we need to address artistically. We think of our cohesive group preparation in a couple of ways: the show as a whole, the separate sections of the show, and the technique necessary to perform excellently in each area. Planning our rehearsals and thinking about their content gives us an opportunity to evaluate where we are as individual artists and performers. It also highlights where we need to flex, grow and increase our knowledge to benefit the the show.
This year Rob Schiffmann and I decided that there were some elements in our show where we wanted to build a wider base of understanding within the cast. We chose to look at movement, vocal production, costuming and musical styles. We wanted to expand our knowledge in these areas by bringing in other people to lead.
Since our show aims to focus on the excellence of our music, lyrics and stories we really need to be able to sing, discover and tell great stories. Sometimes improvisation get a bad rap because there is a lot of bad improvisation out there and people tend to think of it as just disposable entertainment. We want to set the bar very high. We want to be thought of as a theatrical show that just happens to be improvised.
For example when we improvise a song in the style of a particular composer we don’t want to just spoof that style; we want to nail it and improvise it in an accurate way that pays tribute to that composer or genre with a wink and a smile. This does not happen from sheer will, it takes study and practice. Lots and lots of practice. That is why we want to add these precise elements to our rehearsal process.
That's the great thing about improvisation; it's ever changing and ever new and we aim to continue in that tradition!