Published on June 14th, 2016 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Katie Purych
Improvised musicals? They’re no problem for the talented performers at Off Key, who are launching their new improvised musical, BroadWHAT?! on June 15th.
We got the lowdown on the essence of combining improv and music from Katie Purych, one of the stars of this new production.
What is your involvement with BroadWHAT?! and how did that get started?
I’m one of the performers in BroadWHAT?! I auditioned to be part of Off Key in October, and this will be my second show with them. We had some really great feedback from our first full-length improvised musical this past December (Love Musically), and I think the production team wanted to keep exploring those possibilities.
BroadWHAT?! is an improvised musical. What are the creative challenges and rewards associated with creating an improvised musical?
For me, I’ve never been so nervous in my life than opening night of my first improv show, Love Musically. I was shaking and sweating profusely, but when it was over (and I hadn’t died) I felt amazing! Improvising a scene is one thing, but when it’s a two act show with complex characters and story lines it gets challenging, especially when we’re making up songs on the spot every few minutes and putting together impromptu dance numbers, all while trying to look like we know what we’re doing. It’s a lot of elements (and cast members) that have to come together, but when it clicks it feels like magic!
What can audiences expect when they see it?
Audiences can expect a different show every night, since its entirely improvised. (Incentive to see it more than once!) There will be singing, dancing, acting, and a fabulous band of musicians (who are also improvising!) We will be taking inspiration from the audience at the start, choosing a setting for our musical, and from there, no one knows what’s going to happen!
What are three things that every improv production needs in order to be successful?
I’m still really new to improv, so I’m definitely still learning! But from what I’ve discovered in my time with Off Key, I’d say that you need to trust each other (your cast will always have your back), you need to be brave and take risks (and be cool with looking silly) and you need to be open and listen. And then magic happens!
Why does the world need musicals and improv (and both together)?
People go to the theatre to escape. We get to see into another world, and watch as characters navigate challenges and overcome them. We want to feel something, to laugh, to cry, to feel hopeful…music evokes emotion instantly, and musical theatre has a way of pulling us in and showing us real human qualities, while being very entertaining!
I think people go to see improv because of the excitement we feel. There’s an element of danger because we don’t know what’s coming next, and neither do the improvisers! Its so rewarding as an audience member (and as a performer) when a story line emerges or a joke lands, to know that it was completely spontaneous.
Musical improv is the combination of all of these elements – the spontaneity and danger of it being created on the spot, but also bringing with it characters and music that the audience can connect to, and showing what it is to be human. Its the best!
What are some of your favourite musicals?
I feel like my favourite musical changes every day, depending on my mood! The last little while I’ve been listening to a lot of Hamilton, Singin’ in the Rain and Company.
Who are your improv influences?
I have definitely been influenced by the members (and directors) of Off Key. Before auditioning for the group, I had been to a couple of their performances and was so blown away by what they were creating! Once I had joined the group, my initial intimidation quickly turned into a huge respect and love for these people.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
That listening is everything.
What books and authors have been influential to you?
The Harry Potter series was probably the most influential for me. I grew up with those books, and I loved that I could (and still can) see myself in the characters. Its so fun to go back to that series and get lost in the fantastical world, and to discover new things and make new connections each time.
What other projects do you have in the works and where can we find out more about you?
In July, I’ll be heading to Regina to play Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone with Prairie Skies Musical Theatre Co! I don’t have a website…but you can follow me on Instagram if you really want to! @katiepurych (It’s mostly pictures of my cat.)
Thanks to Katie Purych for speaking with us!
You can see BroadWHAT?! from June 15th to June 18th at Studio 1398 in Vancouver. Tickets are available through broadwhat.brownpapertickets.com.