"It’s a moment shared between actors and audience that will never be repeated. It’s like fireworks, beautiful, bright then gone. That for me is the magic of improvised theatre." – Jason Geary
Jason Geary has probably been wholly and solely responsible for a 100% jump in revenue for the Iselect brand since his quirky character (Mr. Iselect) became the face of the price comparison site. In my view, his talent and skill are the only reason that these ads are successful – and funny – but then Geary is a performer who has been in the business of making meaningful stuff happen out of very little for a really long time. Since High School in fact when, he says, he was always a bit of a clown in school. He singles out two teachers, David Weeding and Vince Perry, who he attributes to being the main influences on his desire to becoming an actor by giving him every opportunity to channel that energy into something constructive. "They cast me in plays, supported me in one act play festivals, lead me to St Martins Youth Theatre Company and taught me an awful lot about comedy," he says. "When your teacher gives you Spinal Tap and The Producers in year 12. You know they care. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I’d be doing."
Geary is, of course, the current artistic director of Impro Melbourne but has been a proud part of Impro Melbourne since its inception. "As plain as I can put it, Impro Melbourne has created the performer I am today," he explains." It’s given me the confidence to investigate and immerse myself into the art of improvisation and further my standing in the local and global community. I love Impro Melbourne; it made sense to want to take the helm when the opportunity arrived."
Being the head of any company is difficult but leading a company of performers has its own set of challenges, explains Geary. "Standing at the helm of a company populated by my peers is very difficult to do. I have to work hard to keep people engaged and inspired, I have to be able to feed back critically to my peers, which is not always easy. I am blessed to have been surrounded by dedicated talented people throughout my 16 years with Impro Melbourne. Many of who remain with the company. These people have had a great part in shaping the performer I am today; I take pride in trying to fulfil that role for others too. It’s not always easy, and the results of your hard work are not something you see immediately, but there are moments when people in the company shine that make it all worthwhile. My job is to provide a platform for talent people to spring off of. The company members have to bring the talent, and I’m proud to say, they do."
At the moment Geary and his team are bringing the Impro Melbourne Classic to The Space in Prahran over this coming weekend. It is a celebration of Australian and New Zealand's best improvised theatre and is a festival of Improvisation. "I wanted to celebrate the rapid growth of the Impro scene in Melbourne and offer those local improvisers the chance to engage with some forms that they are new to by inviting guests from interstate and overseas," Geary explains. "The audience reap the benefits of that. On any given night the audience will see a wide variety of improvised theatre and comedy showing the range that this great art from covers. From short form gamey impro ala Theatre sports to long form narrative based Improvisation like The Long Weekend. The audience will get a huge variety of improvised performance. It’s a great way in for those looking to see what this art form has to offer."
Impro makes us all laugh but do not be fooled, Impro is a specialist form of performance that requires more than starting life as the class clown. "It’s about understanding the format, the structure, keeping you skills sharp, and building a rapport with your fellow players," says Geary. " We don’t ‘plan’ anything. Every rehearsal is fully improvised and then never seen again. Sometimes when and ensemble is working well I feel like we could charge for rehearsals too. The work is that good, and it will only ever live with the people in the room at the time."
The next project for Impro Melbourne is a Fringe season called Word Play which is long form Improvisation based on written pieces from published authors, it is a new type of creative collaboration for the company and, Geary states, very exciting. After that Impro Melbourne is has a season of Superscene beginning late Oct at The Space. It a form where multiple directors pitch stories against each other and the audience decides which they want to see it’s great fun.
Geary states that every acting role, be it stage, screen or improvised brings a new set of challenges, all of which he enjoys for that very reason, the variety. "You’re flexing very different muscles for each new role." Geary is also the very proud Dad to two daughters and admits this to be the most challenging and enjoyable role he has. Feelings that parenthood engender are indeed universal and, Geary says, it never fails to surprise him and fill him with joy.
Impro Melbourne Classic 21 – 23 September: 7.30pm to 10.45pm The Space: 5 Carlton Street, Prahran Bookings www.impromelbourne.com.au