Fringe Preview: People Suck – An Irreverent Exploration of Human Suckiness – Presented by Nutmeg Creations at the 2015 Toronto Fringe
by Bailey Green
Megan Phillips had an epiphany. She was being a complete jerk to the people she loved — she had no idea why. She sat in a hipster coffee shop in Toronto during the 2014 Fringe when it hit her. After “journaling-out” some ideas, she got in contact with Peter Cavell. Megan calls Pete, “a brilliant composer” and knew he was the right person to bring this idea to life. When Megan told Pete the title, it sealed the deal — People Suck, an irreverent exploration of human suckiness.
They were intrigued by the concept of creating a song cycle based around a theme, as opposed to a musical with a linear arc or central character. People Suck plays with musical genres and unique characters, injected with a healthy dose of comedy. “Pete and I had very similar ideas of comedy,” says Megan, “but we also knew that in order to give that comedy depth, we had to explore the emotional layers behind the songs.”
Pete and Megan have known each other for almost 15 years, they attended Western together, and also come from similar backgrounds of working with Second City and sketch/improv work. Pete, writer and co-music director, is a current musical director at Second City. Megan, writer and cast member, heads an all-girl sketch comedy troupe called STRAPLESS COMEDY (who you may have seen at Fringe last year!).
They wrote People Suck on and off into the winter of 2014, while Megan lived in Vancouver and Pete lived in Toronto. But when they were pulled for the Fringe, they began writing multiple times a week over the phone. “Skype is not our friend,” they say. They kept track of lyrics in Google docs to coordinate progress, but couldn’t resist chasing each other’s cursors around the screen. “Our biggest challenge was time and distance,” Megan remembers. With the time difference, there was a narrow window where they could work. “I would get home after work, put my son to bed, and have only a few hours to write with Megan,” Pete says. In May, Megan moved to Toronto and the pair began to work on production. “Pete’s like a ‘real’ person… I mean he has a job and family and 2 year old, and Adriana [Pete’s wife] has been so amazing and supportive of Pete and this project,” Megan says. “She’s the best!” Pete agrees.
After both knowing him for years, their director Kerry Griffin (current director of Second City mainstage) was the first person they thought of to bring on to the project. As for cast, they needed to find actors with a comedic background who also had strong vocal chops. They chose: Ashley Comeau (Second City mainstage) and Connor Thompson (Second City) who are “a real life couple” adds Megan; Allison Price (Second City) who “coincidentally, we grew up as kids together,” says Pete, “and went to the same piano teacher”; as well as Arthur Wright, who went to university at the same time as Pete and Megan, who they also herald is a “phenomenal singer and actor.” Pete and Megan have been deeply appreciative of the hive-mind-like comedic writer atmosphere that has brought their piece to a new level.
They also credit their producer Victoria Laberge for her excellent work. Laberge, a native Montrealler very involved with theatre and FRINGE Montreal, has allowed Pete and Megan to focus on the creativity while Vic handles deadlines, press releases and “so many emails,” Megan says.
Their co-music director Jordan Armstrong, also a music director at Second City, brings a level of fresh musical improvisation and a bevy of skill with instruments to the table. Jordan plays clarinet, flute saxophone, percussion and piano (to name a few.) “So maybe she’ll grab her sax and I’ll grab my guitar, to we’ll fill out the musical texture a little more,” Pete says.
As for what they’re most excited for with the Fringe:
Megan: “Just doing the show for an audience! This show is so special and I feel so lucky to have had Pete as a partner and then the cast and everyone else who’s been involved. It’s our gorgeous little baby and now we’re get to show the baby to the world.”
Pete: “Getting this out there. We’ve been living with it for so long. Watching it now, the actors are all doing their thing and it’s made us step back and realize – wow, that was ours and now it’s this massive thing that can actually stand on it’s own.”
As for a teaser or preview? Megan graciously sings me a preview of their opener, in a Tim Hortons. The featured character is Miss Talbot, a teacher, who tells her class to settle down for the day’s lesson — that everyone has a special talent they bring (“In the potluck of life we can’t all bring the casserole,” Megan sings) but there’s always someone who plays a specific role.
“Suppose you lend your favourite dolly to Delilah,
Cause you were taught it’s nice and kind and good to share,
But then she keeps it for five years, and when it you get it back,
It smells like pee and it’s missing all it’s hair,
Then Delilah is an asshole.”
Presented by Nutmeg Creations as part of the 2015 Toronto Fringe Festival
By: Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell
Company: Nutmeg Creations
Company origin: Vancouver, British Columbia
Director: Kerry Griffin
Cast: Ashley Comeau, Megan Phillips, Allie Price, Connor Thompson, Arthur Wright
Creative team: Musical Direction by Jordan Armstrong and Peter Cavell. Produced by Victoria Laberge.
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language
Where: Randolph Theatre
July 01 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 10:30 PM
July 06 at 12:45 PM
July 07 at 06:45 PM
July 08 at 10:30 PM
July 09 at 05:15 PM
July 11 at 11:00 PM
Connect with them: @PplSuckMusical