I just might have seen more May Can Theatre shows than anyone else. From the early days with SPEAKERS at the Youth Infringement Festival and their killer production of MacIvor’s YOU ARE HERE at Algonquin, to the small-scale madness of THE DANGER PROJECT, and shows at SUBDEVISION and the Stage Managers Battle, co-founders Cory Thibert and Tony Adams never stop making theatre. Lately they’ve been creating a big buzz at the Fringe Festival, scoring Prix Rideau Award Nominations for SOUNDS FROM THE TURTLE SHELL and taking their hit WOLVES>BOYS to the inaugural Island Fringe last year. Now they’re back with their latest show, HAPPINESS ™.
5 Fringe Questions with CORY THIBERT and TONY ADAMS
– What’s the story behind HAPPINESS?
Tony – The idea for Happiness came around the same time Cory thought of the basic idea for Wolves>Boys. I was walking home one day and thought, “hey I haven’t thought of a play in a long time.” So I came up with two salesman selling something that is completely unattainable; happiness. I feel like we always look for a quick fix, and that’s a pretty obvious statement. I feel like that’s said in infomercials 1092 times a day. And I wanted something that was impossible but not unbelievable. The same way a church sells hope, HPL(the company name in the show) sells happiness.
Also the idea was furthered after me and Cory went to some bogus open casting call and were so blown away by the ridiculousness of it and how much people believed.
Cory – Happiness has been a basic idea as a play for a long time now, Tony had the idea for this over a year ago, the same time the idea for Wolves > Boys came about, and we decided together who’s idea we’d work on and when. We figured we’d really want to work on Happiness and expand it to its potential. I think the idea was spawned from us attending an open casting call, basically a scam. So we based the company and characters off of those people, and many other things, but I think that was the one thing that spawned Happiness™
– How has May Can Theatre evolved?
Cory – To us this is a very different experience, creation wise. We really created characters that aren’t highly based off of ourselves, and created a world that they live in that isn’t familiar to our own. Also, working in that world and using different means of media and fun things and working with different people to help with those things, such as video, photos, design, power point presentations and dance choreography. Again, this play has forced us to use different means to create a play, use and learn different assets and grow as creators.
Tony – May Can is a weird thing. We’ve changed a lot but it still feels the same. We never set out with a clear goal of what we wanted to do, we just knew we wanted to make shows together and with friends. And we still do that. So that part is very much the same, but the type of shows we do is different. We always wanted to be there with the audience instead of doing the standard play with four walls. I feel like now we are making shows that are very much present and in the “here and now” and trying to create a new world from what people know, but still feel a part of it. Kind of slightly off from real life but still on earth. Like between whimsy and reality or something. But honestly I don’t know, we just make what interests us and what we want to explore. We’re starting to work with new people and that’s exciting. We have Mado as a resident member, and she wears many hats and all of them fit her well. And Emily Carvell as well, she keeps us in line a lot and helps out a lot with production and promotional stuff. Behind every May Can boy is a strong woman.
– Do your future plans include touring?
Tony – Touring is a big thing on our list. We were always scared to do it, we thought our shows and our work were just kind of a niche thing in Ottawa. Like just our friends coming to our shows to see us, not our work. But when we traveled to P.E.I. last summer to do Wolves>Boys people had the same response to it as they did in Ottawa. It was a really gratifying moment to realize our work reached out further. This summer we are going to St.John’s New Brunswick to do Wolves again. We want to set up a small Ontario tour this fall with Backpack Theatre and hopefully next summer to a couple Fringes across Canada. It’s a loooooooot of planning though. So hopefully we can do it.
Cory – We really want to tour. Hopefully next summer. We’ve been looking into it and a lot of people have been really helpful and supportive about asking any questions we have. We’re going to New Brunswick this summer, so travelling we’ve experienced again, touring is the next big step we want to take.
– Talk about working with your director (and frequent collaborator) Madeleine Boyes-Manseau.
Cory – Mado is an awesome director. She takes what we write and makes it better, makes us realize what’s actually in there and makes the story clearer and whips us into shape and into better performers.
Tony – Working with Mado is amazing. She is so keen and intuitive, we both look up to her a lot. We all know each others work and selves very well so our working relationship is great. We have things that we say where it makes no sense to anyone else but us at this point. Tonnes of bad analogies and all that jazz. When we’re creating a show with her, whether she is directing/acting/dramaturgy her voice is super important to our work andI think it comes through in different ways. She forces us to look into what we write. When she did Sounds From the Turtle Shell with us, her question was always “why is this here?’ and our answer was usually “cause it’s funny” or “it’s just a joke.” but she would make come up with reasons for everything and it makes our work way more dynamic. She is my Jewish wife and I love her.
– What animal is THIS show about?
Tony – This show is about the animal inside all of us. and friends. and us. and jokes. and growing up. and whatever else it is we do every single time.
Cory – Sand-Tiger Sharks
– bonus question: Don’t you guys have ANOTHER show you’re doing at Fringe this year…?
Cory – Why, yes we do Kevin! May Can is collaborating with Backpack Theatre and friends! We’ve written, and are performing in The Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade (and other fuck-ups) a collaboration between Jonah, Nick, Tony, myself, and KEVIN REID! and directed by Mado! It’s been a hell of a journey, all creating a piece together, and making all the music and having us all take part in producing and organizing. From Jonah getting us sponsored and getting free guitar strings to Kevin organizing a kick ass fundraiser.
Tony – BONUS! we totally do have another show! The Tragicall Historie Of Nick Wade and Other Fuck-Ups! It’s a bomb-ass show and were stoked to be working with Nick and Jonah and the man legend himself, yourself, Kevin Reid. Completely collaborative from beginning to end with music and good times!
HAPPINESS tm Plays this year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival at the T.A.N.Coffee BYOV (317 Wilbrod at Friel). Showtimes are:
June 20th 7:30pm (2 for 1 opening night show)
June 21st 6:00pm
June 22nd 9:00pm
June 27th 9:00pm
June 28th 6:00pm
June 29th 9:00pm
June 30th 6:00pm
Advance tickets available HERE at the Fringe website. $10 at the door with a Fringe Pin!