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Fantasy improv play lets audience take centre stage

By Rachel Woodward, December 1 2015 —

Alberta Theatre Projects is presenting their fantasy improv play Legend Has It at the Martha Cohen Theatre until Dec. 31 before taking the play to New York City in January.

The play has an interesting twist — the main character is pulled from the audience at the beginning of each show, making decisions and solving problems as they lead the audience through a Lord of the Rings-esque journey. Co-creator and cast member Jamie Northan explains the structure.

“We do have the structure of the world and a little bit of narrative,” Northan says. “But we leave the major decisions and plot points open to the audience member that comes on stage. Our main character is a member of the audience and we hope they become the hero along the way and make choices that help save our world.”

Before each show, cast members mingle with the audience to create a list of possible heroes. Only willing participants are listed, ensuring that members with petrifying stage fright won’t be forced into the spotlight. The hero helps build a fantasy universe by manipulating scenarios and solving problems with cast members.

The cast of Legend Has It come from a largely improv-based performance background. The play was workshopped at Loose Moose Theatre, a venue created by University of Calgary professor Keith Johnstone to foster improv theatre in Calgary.

“We figure [the audience member] is surrounded by about 117 years of improv experience combined on stage,” Northan says.

ATP originally presented Legend Has It two years ago during their now-defunct playRites Festival. The show was popular enough for the theatre to bring the show back for a holiday run in Calgary before traveling to New York City in the new year.

Northan says the audience’s reception to the play has been incredible and that any attendees come to productions dressed up in fantastical attire.

“Somebody will always come up with something to help that person through the process, but we listen to them,” Northan says. “They are a stranger in a strange land, and we need their help.”

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