'Freestyle Love Supreme' Makes The Audience An Integral Part Of The Act11:04
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Lin-Manuel Miranda, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Anthony Veneziale, Chris Sullivan, Aneesa Folds, Ian Weinberger (on keyboard back), and Arthur Lewis (on keyboard) in "Freestyle Love Supreme." (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Anthony Veneziale, Chris Sullivan, Aneesa Folds, Ian Weinberger (on keyboard back), and Arthur Lewis (on keyboard) in "Freestyle Love Supreme." (Photo by Joan Marcus)

One of the hottest shows on Broadway right now makes the audience part of the act.

Called “Freestyle Love Supreme,” this hip-hop improvisational show is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail and Anthony Veneziale — the creative minds behind “In the Heights” and “Hamilton.”

The show is completely spontaneous — there are no scripts or lines. This makes each performance unique because the audience decides what words or topics the crew will rap about on any given night.

In true Freestyle Love Supreme fashion, here’s host Jeremy Hobson giving Veneziale (aka Two-Touch), Chris Sullivan (aka Shockwave) and Utkarsh Ambudkar (aka UTK the INC) words to rap from the day’s news:

“The point is to pick a word and then speak the truth,” Ambudkar says.

He says the performance — for both the group and the audience — is a “real exercise in hyper-listening.” Throughout the show, they’re attentive to responses from the audience, so they can string together new comedic raps as they go.

“We've sort of just learned to retain the things that the audience likes along the way so that we can give them the joy of bringing it back up,” Ambudkar says.

Freestyle Love Supreme encourages audiences to refrain from using their phones to create a real connection with the audience — with no distractions. It allows for some vulnerability, too, Veneziale says.

“We deeply listen to you, the audience, and then [what] we're asking from you is that you deeply listen to us,” he says.

The group, which started more than a decade ago while working on “In The Heights” at Wesleyan University, “was just a terrible idea that spun into an awful 15 years” of performing, Veneziale jokes.

The job can be “terrifying” at times, he says, considering it’s up to the audience to decide how the show goes.

“There are some shows that I have where I'll try to set up a rhyme and I fail at it,” Sullivan says.

But that’s part of the magic of Freestyle Love Supreme, Sullivan says, because they “allow the audience to see the rough edges and some of the mistakes.”

Bloopers and all, it’s being in the moment with the audience that thrills them. Once that connection sparks between the folks on stage and the people in the seats, Sullivan says, “It's one of those things you're like, ‘Oh, I need to do this all the time. It's my favorite thing. Oh, God, I can't wait to do it again.’”


Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKennaSerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on October 22, 2019.

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