Behind the scenes with Patti Stiles

by Patti Stiles on 7 August, 2018 in blog

The Grand Exotic Budapescht Hotel is an improvised soap opera, performed from July 22 - Sept. 9.  Patti Stiles is the director and Co-Artistic Director of the show. She is also one of the members of the award-winning group Die Nasty in Edmonton Canada, who created this particular form of improvised show.   She is also the first woman to improvise 53 hours straight in the Die Nasty soap-a-thon, but that is a whole other interview.

For now, we caught up with Patti to ask her a few questions about the show.

Hi Patti, thanks for doing this interview.

My pleasure.

What do you want the audience to experience in the show? 

An entertaining night of improvisational theatre. They will experience the emotions of a soap opera and the laughter of an impro show.

Tell us about the hotel in Budapest where the show is set? 

The show takes the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel as its inspiration.  We are creating our world using their world as stimulus. There are many subtle nods to the movie, which fans of the movie will note, but we are creating our own unique environment.

Our show is set in 1932 in a fictional town called Sopronski, based loosely on the real town of Sopron in Hungary. I chose this town as it is close to the Austria / Hungary border and has a history of German occupation. Sopron has also been called Civitas Fidelissima ("The Most Loyal Town”). I quite liked this.

What kind of research and preparation went into the show?

As director I did research on the film. I learned about the story, Wes Anderson's style and approach, where the story came from, even details like the artist who painted the boy with apple. It is a joy to work on a creative project as it is a wonderful opportunity to learn.

I also did some reading on the time period. We are between two wars, tensions are high between countries and their is a lot of transition politically and socially.  A rich environment for stories.

Also a cast we came together and watched the movie while eating snacks, laughing and discussing the film, story and possible characters.

Then each actor did their own research on who they might like to play and how they fit into this world and time period. Many of the characters are based on real people, stories and situations.

What are some of the joys and challenges of soap opera for you, as a genre?

The joys are the stories of people and their interactions.  Our human strengths and fears, our need for love and acceptance, our desires, our morality, our value system and our frailties.  The challenge for me as director is to stimulate and inspire the players to be free to play these stories.  The challenge for the actors is to allow their characters to be changed and affected by what happens to them.
What is your role, what do you do, in directing an improvised show?
My role is to set scenes for the players to play. To end scenes and watch the balance of types of scenes and players energy.  I have a few starting ideas based on what happened the week before and then I need to really listen and watch what is being played and discovered.
Anything else you’d like to say...
The soaps are a really special and different form of improvisation.  This is not your game based, audience suggestions type of show.  This is storytelling. Funny, outrageous, touching, beautiful and delightful storytelling.  

Read the Review

Catch up on the Episodes

July. 22 - Episode 1 -A Hunting we will go!

July. 29 - Episode 2 - Hoaxes, Holy Spirit and the devil inside.

Aug. 5 - Episode 3 - This is your card!