In search of a hero

Rebecca Northan’s combines improve and theatre for legendary show

Ever wanted to explore your inner Conan the Barbarian? Rebecca Northan’s latest creation Legend Has It gives one lucky theatregoer the chance to be a hero.

“I love the fantasy genre” she says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s great to watch a movie or play a video game but wouldn’t it be cooler to be a part of one?”

The creator of long-running improv hit Blind Date (300-plus shows over the last five years) and Kung Fu Panties says the audience makes all the difference in this new show.

“The story remains to be seen” says Northan. “The hook is that an audience member is the hero in the show. A huge chunk is scripted but the adventure will come from them.”

Legend Has It takes place in a world of Dungeons and Dragons-styled fantasy where one audience member will be singled out as the hero of the performance. “Everyone is already a hero in their own way” she adds.

Northan says it’s fitting that the show will debut at Alberta Theatre Project’s final playRites Festival where she had her first paying theatre gig 10 years ago. For Legend Has It Northan says artistic director Vanessa Porteous challenged her to go further than Blind Date creating a hybrid of improv and live theatre.

“Working at ATP has been a luxury. Suddenly there’s a prop and set department designers; these are the nicest things we’ve ever touched” she says with a laugh. “We’ve been able to dig deeper than your average improv show to create something you haven’t seen before.”

The show features some of Northan’s regular Blind Date collaborators including Renée Amber Bruce Horak Jamie Northan and Sean Bowie with Mark Meer newly added to the mix.

“My brother (Jamie) made this joke ‘Look between us we have over 100 years of improv experience’” she says. “That’s a ton. Renee started at Loose Moose when she was 13 and we’re as close as sisters. Bruce and I used to be married; we no longer are but still work together as co-creators and producers.

“There’s an incredible amount of trust there — we’ve seen each other at our worst and our best. I’m never afraid when I’m onstage.”

If you’re scared of appearing in the show don’t worry. Northan says participating is voluntary and her crew is skilled at picking out just the right person for the performance. They can also identify the people who are unnervingly eager — nobody wants to watch a jerk she says.

“Sometimes you see improv at comedy clubs where someone gets dragged onstage to be the butt of a joke” she says. “That’s the opposite of our philosophy.

“If you’re game we have five people onstage that will work for two hours to make sure you have an amazing time and look great. More often than not a couple of people will ask for your phone number.”

She adds that dressing up in fantasy costume is encouraged and that you can check your broadsword (or wand axe etc.) at the coat check.

After the success of Blind Date and Kung Fu Panties Northan says there’s pressure to produce another hit but when it comes to improv failure and experimentation are just part of the process. “If something doesn’t work one night we’re not going to do it again. We’re pretty lucky in that sense.”

So if you’re brave enough strap on your armor grab your sword and join Northan’s gang. “We always ask each other ‘Is this something we’d want to go to?’ We want it to feel like a party for people to have such a good time that they’ll stay and have a beer after the show.”