New Zealand is having its first National Theatresports Championships in almost two decades. The best and bravest improvisers from around the country will do battle at The Court Theatre in September. Over four nights, competitors will fight to be crowned the most fearless, fastest, and funniest Theatresports team in Aotearoa.
Associate Director of The Court Theatre and Artistic Director of The Court Jesters, Dan Bain, says that The Court Theatre is proud to be holding the competition. “As home of the longest-running improv show in New Zealand, Scared Scriptless, we saw it as our sacred duty to host the fiercest comedy battle in the country. Some egos may not survive, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
To make performers feel at home, the Dunedin team will be issued with flammable couches, Nelson performers will use tanning beds when not on stage, Wellington will have industrial fans installed throughout their accommodation, the Palmerston North team will be billeted in Ashburton and Auckland will be given a constant supply of lattes and a live stream of the Waterview Tunnel.
Representatives of Wellington improv troupe PlayShop said "With more star power than Ursa Minor and more skill than the 1996 Chicago Bulls, our team is ready to descend on Christchurch like a hurricane!". Leona Revell, manager of Palmerston North troupe Spontaneous, says “we’ve got small city skills but big city heart.” Auckland improvisers were “too busy” to provide a quote but said they would “love to do lunch”.
The competition consists of three heats featuring three teams each night, with the winner of each heat advancing to the Grand Final. The third heat will include a bespoke team made up from performers who have been eliminated in the previous two rounds. Bain describes this “wild card” team as “the ‘One Direction’ of the competition.” It is uncertain if this title is meant as a compliment or insult.
Bain is adamant that the panel of three judges overseeing the competition will be “completely impartial, unflinching and incorruptible. And currently anonymous for their own protection.”
With Theatresports currently most closely identified with The Court’s High Schools competition, Bain is keen to show audiences what improv is capable of. “These are professional performers with years of experience under their belt. They are masters of the form.”
The Court Theatre has also commissioned the construction of a new trophy. “With it being 20 years since the last Theatresports final, the original trophy is probably lost in the back of someone’s wardrobe somewhere,” says Bain. “The only guide I gave the designers was that it needs to fit in carry-on luggage.”
TheNational Theatresports Championships runs from 6-9 September at The Court Theatre. Post-competition celebrations (and commiserations) could run for several days afterwards. Gloating may well last for years.
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Theatresports was first performed in Calgary in 1977 and arrived in New Zealand in 1987, with many improvisation troupes founded around the country at that time. The Court Theatre fully embraced improv and incorporated it into their company, creating The Court Jesters in 1987. Scared Scriptless debuted in 1990.
Theatresports has helped launch the careers of numerous comedians, actors and performers throughout New Zealand.