Wild Heart Acres, a new show by Montreal Improv, promises to be a completely one-of-a-kind experience: a totally improvised mini-series that will feature one installment from January through May. That’s plenty of time to get hooked on the characters and the drama, as it unfolds on the American frontier. Here’s a preview from director Brent Skagford.
Althea Wilson-Forbes (AW): When did it first occur to you to bring the idea of the mini-series to Montreal Improv?
Brent Skagford (BS): I’ve been doing genre-based improv for a couple of years now, both with my troupes The Bitter End and Easy Action. We do a different story or genre with a new set of characters for each show. The idea for an improvised mini-series came from a desire to get to know some of these characters more intimately and develop them over a longer period of time.
AW: What attracted you to the American frontier?
BS: I’ve always been attracted to the aesthetic of The Western. The sweeping landscapes, emergent towns, the outfits! I wanted to bring that aesthetic to the Montreal Improv stage, but I also wanted something that would focus on relationships. That’s where the idea for the Western family drama came from.
AW: Did you have specific casting in mind?
BS: I chose the improvisers that I find the most exciting to watch and that make me laugh the most. I had a slight idea of what role each of them might play, but I asked them to create a character that they felt inspired to play. The whole cast has brought such detail and life to their characters, they’ve all surpassed what my original expectations were.
AW: Could you give us a small taste of the characters we’ll be seeing?
BS: MOSES STANLEY
Patriarch of the Stanley family. Robust and resilient, but struggling to raise two young girls after the death of his wife.
True romantic, though plagued with crippling shyness. She’s had to take up the care of the house after the passing of her mother.
Headstrong troublemaker who doesn’t like to conform to the expectations that society has for a young lady.
EMMETT J. MURDOCH
Elder figure of the town of Wild Heart. A ruthless opportunist, though he crumbles in the presence of his mother.
Town school teacher. A single woman trying to be self-sufficient in a rugged environment.
AW: With audience suggestions, how is Wild Heart Acres going to be different than a long-running main stage play?
BS: The story is going to be created on stage and in the moment. We use audience suggestions as a starting point, and that can send the story in unexpected directions. That’s what makes it so exciting, we can’t plan any plot points, the performers and audience are experiencing the story for the first and only time together.
AW: Being familiar with the Improv space, does that add to the directing experience?
BS: Montreal Improv is like a second home for myself and a lot of the cast as well. The company and the community have grown so much and there’s so much potential for what it could become. I feel like Wild Heart Acres is the perfect show to christen the new theatre space.
Wild Heart Acres premieres January 30th, Montreal Improv Theatre (3697 St-Laurent). Doors open at 8:00pm, show starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are $8 and will be available at the door.