Jamie Burgess began his love of improv at high school in NZ, where he also trained with Patrick Duffy, the Shenanigan Brothers and the Christchurch Court Jesters. In 2000, he performed street ‘guerilla-style’ theatre with Cleverfools as part of the Christchurch Buskers’ Festival, having graduated from the National Academy of Singing & Dramatic Art with a qualification in Musical Theatre Performance.
In 2005, Jamie was introduced to long-form improv in Wellington, where he became resident musician for the Wellington Improv Troupe (WiT) playing seasons of Maestro, improvised Soap Operas, and varied format seasons such as ‘Love Possibly’, ‘Improv Divas’ and ‘The All New Old Time Radio Show’ as well as running workshops on song-prov and musical improv. He also played often with The Improvisers, and joined Derek Flores regularly for his one-man comedy shows as part of the New Zealand Comedy (Laugh) Festivals.
In Australia, he was resident musician with Improv Conspiracy from 2011 to 2013 (and still plays occasionally for musical theatre workshops), and has played for Impromptunes for the past few years in the ‘Completely Improvised Musical’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the ‘Puppets’ musical and ‘The Bachela-la-la’.
Tell us a bit about your workshop and the idea behind it, and why/how it excites you.
The workshop is all about singing... and believe it or not, Amanda Buckley and I believe that EVERYONE can sing! Whether or not they can sing WELL is another thing, and whether that even matters is yet another. Whatever your style, it's so important as improvisers to carry a toolkit full of surprises. The confidence to pull out a song and transform a scene, or simply to understand and allow that your musician is also your scene partner, can carry a good moment all the way to something extraordinary.
What shows are you most excited to see? Why?
I'm just excited to be back in the place where my love for long-form started... all those years ago with a little show called 'Love... Possibly'.
What's the best thing about improv?
Community. Fostering a sense of play and fun, and supporting each other through our tremendous (and on display) failures.
How would you describe your personal improv style?
I listen... and read minds. Ha. (I totally do)
Weirdest/best way improv has helped you in daily life?
I've become a better pianist. Well maybe not a better one, but a more fearless one.
What makes musical improv different/special?
We often don't 'hear' ourselves speaking, but when you sing, you are forcing yourself to listen and be aware of the sound your voice makes. It can be confronting... but learning to love the voice you've got is part of embracing yourself as a performer. It's always awesome when players start to use their voices in ways they never did before. And be honest, who doesn't love a little musical theatre every now and then. #thefeels
What's going on in the improv world where you are?
Melbourne is full of improv love at the moment. I started playing with Conspiracy (Adam Kangas' founded Chicago style company) out the back of a pub in 2011, and the scene has drastically changed since then. Impromptunes continues to try new and innovative musical styles - they just played a season of 'Hamiltunes' based around the concept of musicalizing an audience suggestion of a political figure/scandal, and Soothplayers has the incredible Caleb Garfinkle providing Mandolin accompaniment for their incredible seasons. Andrew Strano continues to run Musical Theatre improv courses at Conspiracy's inner city venue on the weekends, and also helped to begin 'Improvised Potter', where using the Harry Potter canon, new stories are created every night. Impro Melbourne continually cements itself as the 'shiniest' company in the city, and luckily for me, facilitates stunning collaborators like the incredible Amanda Buckley - who I shall henceforth call 'Buckers'.
What's going to be the NEXT BIG THING in improv?
Make up your own question and answer it!
Why are there so many songs about Rainbows? Because even though it's taking some time, one day Australia will find it... the rainbow connection (for the lovers, the dreamers, and me!)
Jamie teaches The Musical Toolkit with Amanda Buckley tomorrow , and will be playing in various shows across the festival. Catch him and our other musical improvisors supporting the programme at BATS Theatre!