Impromptu is an improv trio comprised of Teresa Bueno, Joe Rinaldi, and Kathy Rinaldi. Based in Sarasota, Florida, Impromptu performs fully improvised plays set during the 1940s and 1950s; they will perform in the 7:50 PM block on Friday, August 14 at this year’s Countdown Improv Festival. In this spotlight interview, the trio talks about their “Southern Gothic” style, nostalgia, and where to go in Sarasota when you’re sick of going to the Daiquiri Deck.
Impromptu performs fully improvised plays set during the 1940s and 50s. What inspired you to create this format, and what can audiences expect to see when they tune in to watch you perform on Friday, August 14?
When we saw Impro LA perform an unscripted play in the style of Tennessee Williams, we were hooked! We loved everything about it, especially the idea that improv could be dramatic rather than simply a game or a run to the funny. We found that we gravitated towards the 1940s-50s for a lot of reasons – including the fashion (which helps ground us), the tremendous variety of important world events, and the way that a lack of social media/technology allowed these events to enfold in a very different way. The demands of a world war rocked the norms of family life and redefined traditions that forced family members to confront and redefine their roles at home and in their communities. Ultimately, people are people and the issues that concerned those of the earlier decades are still prevalent today. Audiences will see a trio take a single word/location and transform that into a fully realized scene complete with drama and humor.
We love that there’s a nostalgic element to your longform, and we can probably all agree that we need nostalgia more than ever at a time like this. What’s a time and/or place in your own lives that each of you is nostalgic for?
Teresa Bueno: I would love to step into the time when my childhood imagination reigned supreme. From the age of 5 until around 10, I could lose myself in my boundless and untethered imagination at any time in any circumstance. I could be anyone, go anywhere and have anything. I wax nostalgic when I think about the power and freedom of my childhood imagination.
Kathy Rinaldi: If I’m being serious, I’m nostalgic for a time when I was geographically close to my brothers and sister. However, the truth is that I’m nostalgic for thick hair, a body that didn’t need to diet, and the ability to fall asleep pain-free. Did I mention I wasn’t 20?
Joe Rinaldi: I’m nostalgic for a time when I was young and my family thought the sun shone out of my a**. But seriously… no, that’s right.
Have you been inspired by any favorite plays or playwrights in particular?
JR: William Saroyan, William Inge, Clifford Odets, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill.
KR: While we often are inspired by the amazing mid-century playwrights, we find that our style is more generally “southern gothic” – lots of drama, clever dialogue, and very relationship-driven. That said, we are working on new styles for when the stages open again!
TB: I would have to say Tennessee Williams. Being born and raised in the south, I can deeply identify and relate to his characters, their values and dialogue. I find his work shockingly raw and honest, which are attributes I strive for in my performances.
Tell us how the three of you met and began working together.
Two of us – Kathy and Teresa – first met in a 101 improv class at FST in September 2017. Joe started in the 201 class. We all three continued our FST improv education together through the entire improv curriculum—and beyond! It was seeing Impro LA that spurred us to work together, as dramatic improv isn’t prevalent in our area. It takes a lot of work because you have to research the style, genre, and the era, but we all love that! There’s a synergy that happens when we play together, and we think it has a lot to do with the fact that we are a group composed of an actor, a playwright, and a storyteller.
What excites you most about performing in an online format at this year’s festival?
A silver lining to the pandemic is having the opportunity to study with amazing teachers all over the country and to learn new things, including performing through Zoom. We’re especially excited to perform in the Countdown Festival because it will be our first time to use Zoom for a festival performance. The audience will see our characters up close and personal for the first time—something impossible in regular stage work. It’s also great that our friends and relatives living in other countries will finally be able to see our work!
Finally, the three of you hail from Sarasota, where you trained at the terrific Florida Studio Theatre. Besides FST, the only other place we’ve been to in Sarasota is the Daiquiri Deck. What’s the first place (besides the Daiquiri Deck) that non-locals should visit in Sarasota once we can travel again?
TB: John Ringling put Sarasota on the map. He literally shaped and defined the city and his influence is felt everywhere . A trip to Sarasota is not complete without visiting The Ringling Estate. We highly recommend visiting their home, CA’ D’ZAN (https://www.ringling.org/ca-dzan), and check out the miniature circus at the Circus Museum: https://www.ringling.org/circus-museum
JR: Sarasota might be small in size but it has the cultural resources and vibe of cities with far larger populations (NY, Boston, Toronto, Chicago). We have four union theatres, an opera, a symphony, a ballet company, touring shows, an international film festival, and much more. It’s part of the reason we moved here from NY ourselves.
KR: For me, it’s the food. And the beaches. But mostly the food. We moved here from NY and the variety of food is amazing! The only thing we’ve missed are really great meat-lover’s pizzas, and an authentic NY bagel.