Tom is the co-founder and Associate Artistic Director of Theatre Brouhaha. A dramaturge, playwright, puppeteer, and producer, Tom is also the co-creator and Artistic Director of Shakey-Shake and Friends Puppet Shakespeare Company, where he adapts and performs Shakespeare for young audiences. Tom has been the dramaturge and occasional co-creator on all of award-winning playwright Kat Sandler’s plays, most recently ‘Liver,’ ‘Retreat,’ ‘Punch Up’ and the forthcoming ‘Mustard,’ which opens as part of the Tarragon Theatre season next year.Tom also works as an independent communications consultant, focusing on media and presentation training with an audience-centric focus.Recently, he worked as an arts consultant on John Tory’s successful mayoral campaign. Tom has a Masters Degree in Theatre Studies from the University of Toronto and a BAH from Queen’s University in Theatre and Classics. He also runs a nerd blog (WhaHappen.ca) where he analyses modern mythologies and a podcast that analyses sequels (‘Please Sir, I Want Some More’ available on iTunes). Next up, Tom will be directing David Ives’ All In The Timing at the Highland Arts Theatre in Cape Breton as well as dramaturging the new Theatre Brouhaha play in Fringe. For Shakey-Shake and Friends Tom will be writing and performing Twlefth Night…A Puppet Epic! in FringeKids this summer well as remounting Hamlet…A Puppet Epic in the Best of FringeKids at Solar Stage in April/May.
Blog and Podcast: http://www.whahappen.ca
Shakey-Shake and Friends: http://shakeyshakeandfriends.com
Theatre Brouhaha: http://theatrebrouhaha.com/
Transcript auto generated.
Phil Rickaby 0:04
Welcome to episode three of the state where the podcast I’m your host Phil Rickaby. On stage where they I interview people who make theatre from actors to directors to playwrights to stage managers and more. You can find stage worthy on Facebook and Twitter at stage where the pod and you can find the website and stage where the podcast.com If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use, and consider leaving a comment or rating. This week. Tom McGee joins me. Tom is the co founder and Associate Artistic Director of theatre brouhaha, a dramaturg, puppeteer, playwright and producer as well as the creator and artistic director of shakey shake and friends puppet Shakespeare Company.
Tom McGee, I guess the first question and it’s sort of like, it’s sort of funny, we’ll find it like an out of left field question why I’ve asked it. Why theatre?
Tom McGee 1:17
Why theatre? i This is a question to think about everything. I think anyone who does theatre as a thing with this whole life, particularly when the bills come in, and it’s sad for months, but I think it for me, it boils down to almost a stylistic thing, but I’m a huge fan of experience. And I think one of the few things that theatre can offer right now that film and television like I’m a huge video gamer, I’m a huge like, I love consuming media. And each each of those things gives you its own experience. But theatre can offer that a lot of the things can is a very full immersive experience. Not necessarily more immersive in a, you know, murder mystery or Sleep No More or theatre way but immersive in that. There’s a there’s just a different vibe to the event of going to theatre. And sometimes that’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. I know a lot of people are scared by the idea of both and going to the theatre, that’s gonna be my whole life. Like I’ve got a dress up. And you know, it’s we’ve got tickets to Mirvish. We’re gonna get there at seven, make sure we get our seats, you know, like,
Phil Rickaby 2:18
no seats are gonna be there. There’s a number on the face.
Tom McGee 2:21
We got to get like, this is a thing. You know, people were at top hats.
Phil Rickaby 2:25
While I was not sure there, you’d have those people who are like waiting outside of Ed Mirvish Theatre and the doors open. They’re like, I gotta get my seat me like, because we haven’t even opened the theatre door yet. It’s just the lobby. Yeah. Well, wax a little. But
Tom McGee 2:37
yeah, it’s exactly that door. It’s this. So people use this big grand events that go to the opera. They it’s not just oh, look, it’s performance. I’m gonna go see it. No, it’s opera night. Yeah. And so I think that turns some people off. But at the flip side of that is there’s something really fun about if you see a fistfight on a stage, you’re there, you’re feeling like the you can see, smell swear, you’re drilling. And that’s pretty neat. And you can control the whole audience experience from the minute they come in the door to the minute do we even really interesting way that builds it beyond just the content? So I think that yeah,
Phil Rickaby 3:13
it’s interesting. You say that because there’s there you thinking about the way that we consume media is everything else is kind of passive. Like if I’m playing a video game, I’m sitting back in my chair, my eyes may close glaze over a bit, my mouth hangs open. I’m not really engaged. And same thing with a movie. I can watch a movie on my TV or I go to the movie theatre, and it’s not. There’s something that’s passive about watching that, but live theatre is always so there’s people on that stage breathing, which makes it more definitely more engaging. Like when you see a fight a well done fight. In a live theatre people gasp and I’ve never heard anybody gasp in a movie,
Tom McGee 3:57
for sure it will. And it’s special effects as well. Right, like, a good stage stabbing to bring the house down. Yeah, but yeah, well, there’s definite ways. Yeah, I remember I went and saw the illusionist and the movie deals. And I’d heard that they’re using all practicals for the for the call, this can be great. And I went and it was all CG. And I was like, What the hell? Yeah. Because it just drained all magic there could have been out of like, look, I’m doing these illusions, too. How’s he making that tree grow? Because someone on a computer? Yeah. Made it grow? Of course. Yeah. Right. Whereas I saw God is a production of I’m my own wife. It’s a one person. And there’s the only set with a small side table and the actor just pulled a sheet of paper out of seemingly out of nowhere. There’s just like a hidden slot. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 4:49
I guess. Yeah, of course. Yeah. Oh, into it.
Tom McGee 4:53
Split perfectly simple thing. But that’s that’s the kind of thing a live experience can bring you. That I think Well, I think And so for my for my money that’s sort of why certain stories are better suited for stage. Similarly, certain stories are much better suited for film and television. And I think one of the challenges to content creators now is to make sure you’re telling your your story or creating your experience in the right medium. Something like Jessica Jones, TV show that what does the film
Phil Rickaby 5:25
Yeah, you can’t like nobody’s gonna sit through a 10 hour 10 hour film or
Tom McGee 5:30
film but but really will sit through 13 hours of Netflix. Of course, yeah, we all did. But it’s a different, it’s a different experience. It’s much more passive experience, check my phone, you can pause it, I have complete control over it first took a friend of mine in his first play. Years and years and years ago, we sat in the front row and you never met a theatre before. And so we’re, you know, four metres from the actors or whatever. And I kept looking over and looks like he was having a terrible time, just like super tense. Afterwards, I was like, so did you hate to play like what was going on? He’s like, Well, I didn’t want to distract him by like moving my head.
Phil Rickaby 6:06
Tom McGee 6:08
I thought that was so crazy. But again, that’s to your point. That’s the thing. liveness we’re just yeah, I’m aware that there are people doing things in the nudity on stage. We all get really uncomfortable
Phil Rickaby 6:20
in a way that it doesn’t film that film. It’s like, oh, the person took the clothes off. Somebody took say it takes a shirt off and on stage and you’re like,
Tom McGee 6:29
really? Even if it’s like your back is to like if a woman takes her top off her back is because we’re still at what you
Phil Rickaby 6:35
know is because he in the room. Yeah, exactly. You’re it’s like it’s like on film, you know that it’s been like staged in such a way that they think this person could turn and then we’ll all see it. It’s like it’s crazy. Crazy. Crazy. vulnerable.
Tom McGee 6:48
Yeah, for sure. And, and really an interesting gut check for us because we you know, we speak a lot about how jaded we are, you know, the age of the internet. We’ve seen it all we’ve done it all but yeah, like I not only do I get uncomfortable, but I become acutely aware of everyone around me. Yeah, theatre when I see nudity in a way Dolman film, no. Speaking like, no one cares. Yeah, dark room. Fine, but in theatre, suddenly, it’s like, oh, man,
Phil Rickaby 7:16
like, we’re all our our light. Like, you don’t
Tom McGee 7:19
you don’t want to show your hand. Like you might like really turned on because I don’t want these
Phil Rickaby 7:23
people to know. No, of course not. They’re all like you’re gonna see them in intermission. Yeah, right.
Tom McGee 7:26
Like, you know, we’re gonna have bathroom band. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 7:29
I can’t handle that. No,
Tom McGee 7:30
it’s it’s a different. It’s an entirely different dimension. And it’s funny, it’s easy to forget, because the other day I was thinking about this. My partner, Canada, we’re doing a TEDx talk. And one of the questions was Why theatre? And I’ve never really liked bad theatre months. Does it really matter here? As a cow? Why fear? Yeah, how are we doing? And it was that unpacking of like, well, wait a minute, what what is it that actually hits us that we couldn’t do in film and television couldn’t do in any other medium? And it’s those sorts of things, which obviously are going to apply to every player? Yeah. The Unity angle doesn’t really enter my puppet stuff. No,
Phil Rickaby 8:06
of course not. Of course.
Tom McGee 8:07
There’s again, there’s different dimensions to that that are only exist in likeness. So yeah,
Phil Rickaby 8:13
when you’re talking about having a bad theatre month, is it a bad Theatre in general or bad Theatre in Toronto kind of month?
Tom McGee 8:19
It was, it was coalition things and what I, what I realised was I had, I’m very, I’m trying to get better at this this year, but like, I’m very, very bad at setting aside time for just doing things I want to do. Because generally speaking, it’s all I always wanted what to fix other directors probably like I always find much easier fix other people’s stuff, than just sit down and generate my own. Yeah, and because I kind of played zero to a bunch of different companies. Tony, theatre Vizier. But because I do that, for so many companies, invariably, I will sideline projects that I’m interested in, whether they’re like I run a podcast or a blog, both which have been inactive for a long time, but are coming back. But because I get tied up in all these other projects, so I just hit a point where I wasn’t providing myself with the satisfaction that I need creatively. Just for me, I was like, very satisfied with the work I was doing for other people. Right. The work for me just wasn’t there. And also financially, it was just like a weird, ironically, a lull between a bunch of things that ended up paying fairly decently. But it’s just that this lull, where Janos was kind of transitional time of life. And I was just, yeah, it was It wasn’t anything specific. Yes. Just feeling down on the whole endeavour. Yeah, certainly not on anyone else pursuing or anything else. I’m just gonna go like, Why Why am I doing this? This is a huge Yeah. Like,
Phil Rickaby 9:47
I think we’ve all gotten there. You know, several times a week sometimes depending, depending on how you’re doing. Do you remember what your first theatre experience It was what made you want to do theatre?
Tom McGee 10:02
First theatres because I was really lucky because I got to see a bunch of stuff when I was very, very young. And my mom used to take me to the group Mississauga and Mississauga library had like the storytelling hours. So that’s probably my first sort of brush with the idea of, of loudness. And there was some I had some really good touring productions, but a convertible, there’s one. And I’ve been trying to track this kid’s book down. This is beautiful. And you admit, I think it was based around setting the lady who ends up playing at the bottom of the ocean, and she can’t comb her hair. So she like dragged mirrors is great. Like, which story? Yeah, it was fantastic. And as a kid, I was just like, wow, like, that’s, that’s awesome. Like, that’s really neat. But it was weird as my brain didn’t immediately go like, Oh, I want to do that. This is really enjoyable. I have lost this. What turned me on to theatre I think for myself was a my friends ladies did not play superheroes. Yeah, you know, we started out originally, like Ghostbusters, and Ninja Turtles. And that was Batman, and then Spider Man and the X Men and so on, so forth. And what I realised was I hit a point where I wanted to keep doing that, and they all kind of grown it, right. And same thing with like, like I had, I was the only child to play with a lot of action figures, like totally huge, epic, sweeping stories of my action figures. And I was into action figures much longer than my friends. And so they’re starting to be that little tick in the back of my brain that was like, I like becoming these other people or like, creating these stories. Oh, there’s actually a profession where you do that. And I had written it in high school, I’ve written it off. As you know, I was doing improv a lot. And I was doing serious festival and all those fun things you do in Ontario high school, theatre theatre. And I’ve been like, No, when I go to university, like I was looking into journalism, because my parents both come from journalistic backgrounds is looking into psychology until I found it out. You need math. And it’s really funny because we’re sitting in a careers class, and I’ve done this big of a bookkeeper presentation on journalism, because it’s like, okay, that’s gonna be my jam. Carlton, do the whole journalism thing. And my friend gets up. And she’s like, so I enlisted woman and I just did some work on uten x, which was a ill fated short live vaguely associated with the Marvel Universe, but not really chose jontron a long time ago. And I was like, What? What you can you can do that right now. Like, everybody close things versus like, screw that you can do. I can go. And it was literally that. And that was the shift for me. And yeah, I think there’s also just a combination of consuming so much media, you just invariably because that point, you’re like, oh, man,
Phil Rickaby 12:48
you know what, let’s see a story about Yeah, yeah. Why don’t
Tom McGee 12:51
I see enough of this anymore? The roots of shaky shake was certainly me going like, I miss things like wishbone. Where’s my wish?
Phil Rickaby 13:01
Well, let’s talk about shaky shaky. What was what was it that made you want to create Shakespeare for kids with puppets?
Tom McGee 13:14
Well, the short answer is my desire to own above it, and you need to justify the purchase, which is where it started.
Phil Rickaby 13:22
Funny enough. I have a moment myself. Yes. But I I always just thought I just wanted to fuck him up it. Yeah. But also good to be able to have the justification to because you do have to sometimes come clean with some people, you know,
Tom McGee 13:35
and it was exactly that. So my wife and I were in New York, and we were walking down. The big fucking sign was left field.
Phil Rickaby 13:41
Yes. That’s like,
Tom McGee 13:44
there’s no possible way that that’s a thing you can do. I was I was a sceptic until it was in my hand. Of course. Yeah. Being like, bullshit. Yeah. That’s cool. You can’t be this cool. But sure, nothing. I had to build my mother thing. So we’re travelling with my parents. So my dad is a very practical traveller travels lots. It’s very, like, good for customers. This you do this? God, how are we gonna get these damn Muppets through. So I had that in the back of my mind is like, Okay, well, I don’t know, I want to buy these things. This is a big dump thing to try and bring back. And my wife, Megan says, sort of sad about making her and she basically made her like inner child slash clown. And I don’t have a clown per se and my inner child, basically just me. So I was messing around with them. And I’m like, I don’t know, I don’t want to get to make and then I noticed that they had this smoking jacket just like fell this morning. I was like, oh, man, I’m never gonna find a velvet smoking jacket in pocket size ever again. So I put that and if you haven’t gone through the process, those of you listening at home, you basically get a like a laminated sheet with stickers and you basically just mess around with the stickers, its eyes and noses and everything else. And then they take it away to their very complicated workshop, which is still under a table. Oh yeah. Don’t make a big deal. But so once I found the smoking jacket that I started messing around with, sort of like the goat cheese, like a, you know, the moustache, but I was like, I’ll make a butler. I was like, I can make Alfred and I was like, oh shit, it’s Shakespeare. And that was kind of that was, that’s where it all kind of clicked for me. Wait a minute, if I make Shakespeare that we could do puppet Shakespeare stuff, and I was like, so as this helps justify buying this thing be it’s a much easier sell to my dad. We’re doing much cheaper. So we made a shakes and zip originally, originally shaking shape with a Mumphrey because they knew she was going to be playing Shakespeare. Okay. And my friend has a long standing long suffering Butler character named Henrik Mumphrey. Anyway, and I was like, no, no, he’s just Shakespeare and that’ll be his thing. So get these things back to the Airbnb. We’re staying at my dad who’s in communications. And so pick it picks up certain movies like these are great movies. That’s great. You can’t do that was just too much. We’ll buy more. Yeah. Right. Sir, we’re taking two more guys like, Hey, I’m really sorry, the good news and bad news. We broke even yesterday. It’s cheaper today. But I’m sorry. I had to pay more yesterday. We’re like, Well, I mean, I guess so. So we have four and the funny thing is we get them back and I was pretty much happy to just sit on these buckets and be like, yeah, like the fringe deadlines really just like Hey, should we put in for shaky ship? And what? Yes, we have to miss you know, seriously, we bought these puppets to do a show we should submit to a show. So that was the the genesis of like the initial seed but for me, beyond that, once I started writing and really working the process was I love wishbone and I love the Muppet Christmas Carol, and to a lesser extent my treasure island I really enjoyed like Christmas Carol is just one of those films that gutted me like it’s just there and one. What I love about what oboe wishbone is that they would tell classic stories, honestly, like at the end of Joan of Arc, she burns wishbone never died, but like to two cities his power goes to eating like they really ran those stories properly. And as a kid, I really appreciated that because a when I later we encountered those stories, I was like, oh, yeah, so that on wishbone. And I mean, that goes you know, for when the original Looney Tunes goes for Animaniacs The Simpsons, there’s always these things that are like he’s pastiches of pop culture and classic stories, but it meant that I had proper grounding. And so I really respected that and like that. And then looking to the Muppet model from the Christmas Carol. The original idea I had was like, Okay, so I’ve got Shakespeare and we’ve got this little boy. So start think about Detroit mccluer Little Billy thing from The Simpsons, right? So he was to record like, what about this? Yeah, and I love one of the things I think was a masterstroke. In Christmas, Carol was using Gonzo and Rizzo as Dickens and Rizzo to narrate the piece, because it just meant that anytime they need to comment on it, or explain it, or further
Phil Rickaby 18:12
Tom McGee 18:13
And so that’s really where the the heart of the shake shake model came from, was this idea that Shakespeare will tell the story, but the audience is represented as this kid who can interject and ask for clarification, right? And so on and so forth. And in terms of why tell Shakespeare stories with Muppets for kids in the first place. So many of my friends hate
Phil Rickaby 18:34
Shakespeare. I know. I know. And that’s one of my frustrations generally. And I think it has to do with the way that they encountered Shakespeare Exactly.
Tom McGee 18:43
And that’s what I started thinking about was like, it will start people. Yeah, but why so many of my friends are like, I’ll come see you because you’re in it. But I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m gonna hate this show. Yeah, well, yeah, I’m excited for you know, it was gonna be fun. So start thinking about like, why why would you hate Shakespeare so much? And for me, like my mom told me so many stories when I was a kid at the lamb book that was like the, the writer went through and basically made prose story versions, okay. And there’s a lot of editing like Gloster just isn’t in we’re just kind of weird so there’s just this like random asshole admin running around causing trouble as you do, I guess. But that was great. Or you know, things like wishbone or all these things. So like, I had a grounding in a lot of the stories already liked the stories and I liked the characters. So when I encountered it in school, it wasn’t my first exposure with a lot of people their first exposure is being handed the book and basically told to read it out loud, which is
Phil Rickaby 19:38
Oh my god. Yeah, that’s a horrible thing to do. It’s
Tom McGee 19:40
greatly cheaper. Shoot, you heard? Absolutely,
Phil Rickaby 19:42
yeah. But it should be heard by people who speak it well,
Tom McGee 19:46
because it’s and also like, you know, you’re there’s all the high school stresses of being exposed. And everything else with language. It’s difficult. Yeah, with characters. I mean, so the other thing that clued me into this was I hate Catcher in the Rye. That is Fucking low with that book it’s because the first time I encountered it was in high school setting my teacher with best intentions was like, here’s this book. We’re gonna study it and one of the first things we did was go home like read a chapter chapter and then mark on a map we’re holding coalfields going which was an interesting like it’s an interesting way to examine like that character’s adventure but I just was I took such a analytical approach to nice hated I hated him the themes like his book is garbage everything but it’s terrible and then in university or anecdote different ones like noodle that’s my like, just like foundational path like bury me with that book.
Phil Rickaby 20:35
I have a similar irrational response to Lord of
Tom McGee 20:39
the Flies Yeah, that’s
Phil Rickaby 20:41
I think the other book that people doing in are introduced to in high school absolutely despise
Tom McGee 20:46
Yeah, like Lord of the Flies, the chrysalids the giver like there’s all these there’s like a whole bag of books that either have a really vitriolic yes do or, like, hey, we didn’t study border flies at all. So like my first encounter was on my own terms, of course. Yeah. And it was good, but I certainly know Shakespeare in those terms. I’m like, Well, yeah, cuz the first time I was in an English class, and like a good friend of mine in high school was tone deaf as the days long, which was always hilarious. But are you playing the full engineer? We’re reading we’re alone. It was a pass the book right thing and watching my poor friend just try and do the full songs. Yes. Yeah. And like it it was funny to me. He he was an actual clown. So like, he sold it anyway, everyone had a good time. But just that idea of like, yeah, if that’s your first encounter, and we’re not watching, you know, someone’s soul be ripped out because of their hubris and you know, all the things, but a bunch of kids who are worried about everything under this trend choke their way through archaic language, of course, you’re gonna fucking hate it. Yeah. So my goal was, and I’ve said this in a few press releases, but like, our goal is to get to kids like sneak Shakespearean before someone Of course, yeah. And to just give them give them the proper stories of death and all the concision. It’s vital that you don’t come out of Romeo and Juliet going well, they survived though. Yeah, yeah. Because I mean, I still I still remember how traumatic finding out the actual ending of the little mermaid was.
Phil Rickaby 22:06
Yes, yeah. Yeah.
Tom McGee 22:07
What I’m really disturbed. I was like, really upset. Yeah. Oh, my God. Like, but prints are chosen. Oh, it’s fine. Yeah, no. Yeah. So anyway, so that was that was the idea. And I just really wanted even if I’ve had parents be like, This is really complicated for for kids to do with the hamlet, which we just did. There’s a lot going on. Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s funny. Kids love it’s always dream. Everyone loves Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Phil Rickaby 22:33
It’s a complicated dance. It is a complicated, but there’s no like
Tom McGee 22:37
trying to pair that thing down to basic plot is still crazy. You have to, like to tanyon Oberon fighting over a change when boy, yeah, no, of course. Yeah. But anyway, so you know, well, for example, Hamilton, like that’s pretty heavy story. And, you know, it was a little above their heads, I think. And I was like, well, here’s why, though. Because I’m not weirdly, I don’t want your your kid to necessarily get all of it right now or understand all of it be able to follow all of it. Right now. What I do want is 510 years from now, when they’re when Hamlet hits them. They’re like, Oh, that was the blue guy like, yeah, you know, I saw this once. And just just already have a little bit of that base parity. So it isn’t, and hopefully have enjoyed it. At one time.
Phil Rickaby 23:21
Did you actually find that it was over the kids heads like the kids in the audience, or did you find that the parents thought it was, but the kids who responded to it
Tom McGee 23:27
will have both? I’ve had kids fringes interesting friendships, but it was an interesting beast, because there are no distributing children’s anything, but there are recommended age ranges. Because it’s a puppet piece. Right? People bring kids very young. Yes. And really quick, and it’s partially because as a kid, I like to reach a bit and, you know, go to political force when I was like, in Greek forks was Washington Air Force. It was literally just me asking my parents like, Who’s that? Why is that funny? Okay, who Sheila Copps? Why she fought? Yeah. Okay, what’s with the block, HIPAA quality? And so on so forth. And I honestly I enjoyed that idea of kids and parents getting actually discussing cancer in the theatre, obviously, but yeah, afterwards. So what’s weird is I kind of write for a slightly older group really, my stuff is perfect for teenagers. They can’t like teenage camp counsellors come up to me after any show with you and are like, Can Can you come to my school? You just pitched it to them today. Oh my god.
Phil Rickaby 24:29
Yes, of course. Yes. You
Tom McGee 24:30
experience with puppets? Yeah, if they don’t sparkle in sunlight, I don’t care.
Phil Rickaby 24:35
Tom McGee 24:36
Anyway, um, so we got a really wide range of responses. That being said, some some very, very little ones have just been captivated by the fact that there will pop their puppets Yeah, and the energy is up and it’s you know, it’s fun. We’ve had some small kids who don’t necessarily get But Shakespeare right so in one of the things that we tried to focus on was making sure our textbook is sound as well like It’s you know, I changed a lot of words, we have a lot of fun. It’s very tough. But I also, I think we take a lot of liberty with just jamming Shakespeare into things a lot. And we don’t always necessarily apply technique to Shakespeare that ought to be done to make Shakespeare clear and saying, like, oh, well, you know, I’m using Shakespeare in this funny thing. So whatever, I don’t need to do the text. And I think particularly for what we’re doing that really kills it. Yes. It needs to be understandable. It’s not just have some vomit have to be or not to be just waved to kids.
Phil Rickaby 25:34
Yeah, of course. Yeah.
Tom McGee 25:37
But no, I find again, there are intricacies to stories that I remember encountering as a kid that I didn’t get, but I still enjoyed them. And then later, I go back and watch anything but anything you’ve seen as a kid, you go back later, you’re like, oh, man, I missed a lot. Yeah, yeah. Like, Christmas Carol. Like, I watched Christmas carol every year now. And there’s still bits in that film. But I’m like, oh, man, I never noticed this. Yeah. Which is great. But that’s all. I think that’s all part of sort of having a lifetime relationship with any work, whether it’s Shakespeare or Dickens, or Yeah. So no, I find that fun. Kids rarely get the thing to that I try and do as much as possible is break character enough because there’s a meta narrative of the like, our style is different for those of you aren’t familiar with Shake, shake is that we? We have the puppets themselves are characters and then they put on the play, right? And by doing so, it allows us to break out and comment. And recently, we’ve been experimenting with things like Shakespeare will forget, because he wrote it 400 years ago. So they’ll be like, Oh, look, I don’t know this next part, you tell me, right. So I think generally speaking for kids, even if they are, if they couldn’t tell you the plot of Midsummer Night’s Dream, and after seeing it, they still had the experience and they still like oh, it’s really funny. There’s like fairies and donkey guy. And I guess changing oil changes back and like it all works out. Yeah. There’s lots of hygiene. And I think that’s fine, I think. Yeah. I’ve heard adults describe Shakespeare pieces coming out Stratford like that. Yes. Yeah. I was like, oh, man, is this guy like he’s uncle like, killed his father. And like, there’s a ghost. I don’t know what it’s called. It was really cool. Yeah. So yeah. The flip side of that is I had parents slamming, slamming, she was very polite about it. But of course, it’s a touchy writer. Of course, yeah. After Romeo Juliet, which was our first piece saying, like, you could have kept more of the language in the poetry. She’s like, I don’t think you need to talk down to kids as much as you may think you do. You know, their exact words or something effective, like their little ears are open if you just let them out, which is a fair criticism. But the flip side of that was Romeo and Juliet has those big beautiful speeches and big beautiful exchanges a lot. It’s not great for the ear now. Like it doesn’t it’s not as poetic throughout. Because I think a lot of people remember because they remember the basically the sonnet chunks, yes, but there’s big chunks, like the thing opens with a joke about Maidenhead. Like yeah, second fucking line on the play. So it was one of the things I was like, yeah, like I get it. I think kids can can hear Shakespeare just fine. Let’s just pick the Shakespeare because the other thing is I don’t want to double bucket of Do you understand this
Phil Rickaby 28:17
work hard? No, of course. Yeah. On.
Tom McGee 28:20
So all are going to say I think kids get what I hope, what I want them to get out of it, which is a fun first exposure, we usually end with a song. So there’s kind of an uptick. Yeah. So you know, it’s like ending with jazz hands. Even if you didn’t necessarily get all of it. You have fun time. There’s pop culture references to try to keep you in it. And also to entertain the parents because the big difference between theatre for young audiences and film or television is parents
Phil Rickaby 28:45
have to be in the room of course. Yeah.
Tom McGee 28:47
And I remember as a kid, like, if there was a show that I knew my parents hated, I would watch it if they were in the room, because I was aware that you know, they hated
Phil Rickaby 28:53
it. Yeah. So
Tom McGee 28:55
much like Looney Tunes. Certainly the Muppets Animaniacs and those things to try and keep enough content for the adults. So that you know, they’re having a good time.
Phil Rickaby 29:05
Yeah, yeah. So funny thing about about Shakespeare in language, both with I imagine with kids, but also, adults have this moment, like the first few scenes of any Shakespeare play that I’ve ever done, is the audience acclimating. And they get it eventually it they don’t even notice that the language is happening, but there’s a transitional period. So of course, I can see you know, if adults have a difficult time acclimating then kids who haven’t don’t have the widest vocabulary, their ears are open, but they can’t get all of it.
Tom McGee 29:40
Yeah. And what’s, what’s interesting is I agree with you entirely, and like I find that as an audience member, even I think that’s true. Everyone in my home or Shakespearean theatre still that weird moment you’re like, right. Okay, he’s okay. He’s right. But what’s interesting is because kids kids are fine, gentlemen, speak He spent a lot more time around priming stuff. And they oddly, they’re exposed to an incredibly wide variety of sort of oral things. So even just like Seuss will go back and read Seuss occasionally now, like I think as adults will, you know, every so often like, oh, yeah, I don’t really want to feel like some hotline popped in it. Yeah. But kids are being exposed to interesting rhymes and interesting things. I think a lot, generally speaking a lot more than adults. Yeah. Which means that on the one hand, there’s a possible advantage. They’re going to Shakespeare because like, Okay, this is weird, but I wasn’t know your stuff. Oh, of course. Yeah. But you’re absolutely able to vocabulary and one of the things I try and do without screwing up the language too much is if there’s a word that I’m like, No, and I know there’s a great trick of like, if the actor’s intention fits like great, but you know, swapping out little things that kids will get, yeah, works 90% of the time, and then temps have a time they’re just distracted because Hamlet’s talking about Hogwarts. Yeah, Hogwarts. Yeah, like, it was like, you know, the record skips and everyone in the bar turns and looks at the door.
Phil Rickaby 31:05
Yeah. You guys are doing shakey shake at the fringe this summer? This summer? Yeah. Do you have you decided which
Tom McGee 31:14
I have a had a continuity not. And as a result, I love seeing the next play in previous play. And it happened by accident the first time but and Romeo and Juliet the life of first got potions, potions. Is he a wizard chick? She’s like, nope, I’ve got a great point. Oh, yeah, it’s one of the Tempest. And then the tempest one was like, very much less subtle and literal, again, with the characters is like, that was a lot of fun. Midsummer Night’s Dream. Dream. And that was a really deep embed just mostly for the cast. But when all the characters come out to say like, this is the play we’re doing. They’re like, Oh, Midsummer Night’s and that’s next year. So when I was reading Hamlet, I was really stressed because he was Hamlet has not gone you know, he’s basically Hamlet was my all the chips on the table. Oh, yeah. We’re ready to basically like hang up my hat if it didn’t fly because Romeo and Juliet worked. Tempest admits or, you know, comedies. With Hamlet, it was like, Okay, I think we’ve earned the trust of the parents to do this. We killed everyone at the end. But I spent a lot of time making sure that that was well handled. But the problem part of politics, I was like, Well, I don’t know if this is gonna work or not, I think it will all signs point to it working. But if it doesn’t, like I’m not even thinking ahead to the next play, resolve previous ones and like, dream like no one’s gonna have any issue with. So I threw a 12 minute joke in just like, incredibly off handily. And everyone’s like, oh, so does that the play and like, I don’t know. Because I love to do the Scottish toilet paper. You can’t can’t go straight into that as a children’s. Were doing all the bloody wines. Get a five pack. So yeah, so it’s a joke about 12th night we’re like one of the characters is really upset at the end of the play. And one of the other puppets comes in to comfort her and he’s like, Well, let me tell you the story. Like what’s voted time there were twins. So it’s a really tough night. I’m pretty excited about it. I love to write. And I want to find these The more people that tell it ranks pretty high up there on people’s lists of old that’s my favourite one. Which is interesting, because it’s it’s not like it’s done a lot, but I don’t know. It doesn’t for me.
Phil Rickaby 33:43
I don’t know. I think it’s done a lot. But it’s not. It’s not the ones that everybody thinks up. Because everybody’s like, Oh, Romeo and Juliet Hamlet. Macbeth. Yeah, cool. The Big Three. And I’ve been noticing every year in Stratford it’s one of them.
Tom McGee 33:59
Yeah. As You Like It has had a really huge resurgence. Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 34:03
blew my mind that mine too because it was like, That’s my firt that’s mine. That was my first Shakespeare experience was watching. I was watching midsummer night No. As You Like It, and that was like, it blew my mind but so 12th night is not one that the average person thinks I was getting done a launch
Tom McGee 34:24
I would I would agree with except it now again, I’m telling like non Shakespeare people No Yeah, no, totally. That’s my favourite
Phil Rickaby 34:30
times I’m like how yeah no yeah.
Tom McGee 34:35
So yes, I’m actually also did as you like it with like shaky shaky and Barry this year which was an interesting trips I actually hate as you like it, okay. I just, it’s important this unit too many times. And pretty much every time I’ve seen it, it’s been Oh, man. There’s a lot of Vietnam parallels during Vietnam.
Phil Rickaby 34:56
I’ve seen too many of that and World War Two. Yeah, like it And you know what every one of those is like, let’s take all the comedy out of this play. Which already like,
Tom McGee 35:05
it’s weird because the the serious stuff in that play is so ludicrously handled. That you can’t hang it like once you do have some like legit darkness. Yeah. So you can you can hang your hat on that. Night like, and I’m going to talk more of this in a minute, but like, there’s some dark stuff and 12th night there definitely dark stuff in The Tempest. Yeah, but the dark stuff knows you like it. Like it’s very serious. Like the fact he’s like, I’m gonna murder my brother. Yeah, I came here just to fucking kill him. Yeah, the bad guy told me to do it, but I wanted to do it anyway. Yes. Yeah. He’s like, That’s That’s some serious stuff. Yeah. Luckily, you know, he sees the forest lion attack the European forest line.
Phil Rickaby 35:45
And that yeah, of course. Yeah.
Tom McGee 35:48
But, like, there’s some dark stuff there. And certainly Jeffrey’s whole, like existential quandary. Yeah, very dark. However, the solution to all of the problems and the place that people go on off, we’re gonna change my mind.
Phil Rickaby 36:00
For sure. No, that’s
Tom McGee 36:02
true. If you’re really going to look at the dark version of this play. No, it’s like the end of Schindler’s List being like Hitler showing up and be like, Guys, I’m really sorry. change my mind.
Phil Rickaby 36:14
You know, it’s funny about about that, because there’s the ridiculousness of that play as it’s written the thing that everybody ignores in a modern production, especially when they’re focusing, it’s Vietnam. It’s, it’s thing a fucking Goddess comes out. And it’s like, I’m gonna make everything okay. Yeah, and it’s like, What the fuck? Yeah, it’s
Tom McGee 36:34
completely I don’t know what what’s funny about that is like, if, if you mean into the comedy and James Wilson a really fun production of a very this year, which is why they did the puppet one because I’m trying to say I’ve been experimenting with this idea of, can I basically pop up a version of shakey shake for whatever plays being studied or performed, right, with the hope that you bring your kids to the matinee of the kids one, and then you go and see. Right? Yeah. A lot of people take their kids to Stratford. Yeah, for his kid, and ends up being like, oh, that’s they they also don’t know. Yeah. That’s prosper, brother. Who’s that? That’s the blue one. Oh, cool. Yeah. Yeah. It was interesting, because I, I had, like, I found the love of As You Like It. Working on it, obviously. Yeah. And figuring out how it works. But yeah, and if you go with the comedy if you lean into the fact that a God shows up in a zip cord, there’s a lot of fun and like, yeah, there’s obviously Oh, Phoebe stuff, but I would watch a play about Phoebe and Silvis Oh, well,
Phil Rickaby 37:37
I mean, fucking that’s that’s the thing about like, those scenes, the Phoebe and Sylvia scenes are kind of like the mechanical scenes, and some are, they’re your gimme. Oh, like if you do that, like, that’s the we didn’t get you with that. Here comes this stuff that’ll get you it’s like you just sort of roll those guys out. And it’s like, the audience will be with you.
Tom McGee 37:55
Yeah. And just fun, like great writing fun stuff. Great female hearts, which is also an always nice to find. Yeah. But yeah, absolutely. So yeah, when you try and drain all of it and do a war version. It’s like, you’ve got like, you’ve got this ridiculous lady and this ridiculous dude going around Pilsner height like,
Phil Rickaby 38:13
ya know, like, yeah, yeah, All the world’s a
Tom McGee 38:16
stage is a beautiful tragic speech. But man,
Phil Rickaby 38:20
there’s a lot of fun stuff. Yeah, there is there’s a lot of fun.
Tom McGee 38:23
Loving play. Yeah, there’s a lot of at its core, which is really nice. Yeah, there it goes. So with Yeah, I was kind of surprised that 12th Night ranked the thing that I didn’t put in As You Like It, which I in retrospect, YouTube, which I found in Hamlet, which was actually really stressing me out was this idea in our hamlet that up here not to be, of course, you have to and zetros to sheiks is like, well, it’s really beautiful speech, but what does it mean? And Sheikh Sheikh is basically like, well, that’s something people have been arguing about for years and like, I don’t have the answer, and no one out there has the answer. Like you have figured out what it means for you. And that’s that and zip is like wow, like I’m a kid like no one’s ever asked me what I thought about art because that’s often true kids just hold thing it’s a lie. Yeah, it is. This is how it is why well because this and that really hit people like people really, really connected to that. And so what I’m trying to find each one I do now is that like kind of one heart in 12th night. My favourite character of mine is Mount Holyoke oil is a fucking fantastic part but also real tragic ending. Yeah, and and a lot happening Shakespeare wrote in that like, escape hatch of life. Oh, go find out how to make sure
Phil Rickaby 39:45
everything’s okay. Like, Oh, yeah. Yeah. Which is good
Tom McGee 39:49
because it means if you don’t really want to dwell on how terrible their treatment otherwise you don’t have to Yes, yeah. Which is good because really everyone else you know, it worked out
Phil Rickaby 39:58
really well for everybody. Yeah,
Tom McGee 40:01
but it’s weird because uh, you know, it’s almost the same structure is true or a merchant or any of these Yeah, like one person just gets fired and ostracised booted out and our characters are okay, so we’re happy but like someone is destroyed. Yeah. So I think the punch line on top tonight for this is because it’s trying to figure out like, well what were kids if I’m a kid watching this right now bullying beings? I don’t know I’m gonna have a hard time pointing and laughing about whoa the way it’s intended. No, that’s true because in this in this incredibly bullying aware society we’ve got going right now it’s gonna be hard to just be like, ah,
Phil Rickaby 40:38
Tom McGee 40:40
So, so that’s gonna be the kind of part we sit in on this one shakey shake, kind of be like, the gag is a chicken shake is playing on boy, okay. They hit the plate, everyone’s happy. And he’s kind of like, Guys, I think I got this wrong. Like, this feels terrible. It’s like, the gag in this instance, where it doesn’t like, pointed last himself in the mirror. He’s like, Oh, that really hurt. Yeah, don’t come to my birthday party. But yeah, like we’re gonna do. We’ve got a great gag for the twins. The conceit is the zip has a twin sister named zap, who was another whatnot mop. It was exactly the same just with a longer hair. So the joke is that zap has come to visit, but none of them know that zap has come to visit. So zap is playing the part in the play and roll exhibit doing a great job. Is that what you’re talking about? hasn’t showed up yet? Oh, yeah, whatever. method. And then the big punchline at the end is the other puppet comes out. The audience is also on board with Yeah, this is just the same puppet in a way. But the thing about having prefabricated things is you can
Phil Rickaby 41:44
make multiple versions. That is very true. So yeah.
Tom McGee 41:48
I think we’re gonna end up with Gilligan’s Island. It’s gonna be fun. Well, why not? Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 41:56
So you, you mentioned the TED talk.
Tom McGee 42:00
Yeah. We should be on YouTube soon.
Phil Rickaby 42:03
Okay. Did you just like did you actually give that talk? Yeah, we
Tom McGee 42:06
can. Yeah. So Ketsana when I gave, we were invited to give a talk at TEDx Youth, Toronto, which is going for about five years now. It’s great. They rent out the sonic temple that used to be where TV was electric service, dangerous kind of players. And, yeah, it was it was a tremendous honour. And like one of those things that like I’ve secretly always wanted to do. Well, yeah, longer tables, and oh, shoot, dude, afterwards, like, Hey, I think getting some T shirts printed you all right, I want to sleep. But yeah, it was great. So and just like, tremendously powerful lineup. Like, it felt really weird being included with some of the people out there because like, there’s some really, really cool things. There’s a gentleman whose name escapes me right now. It’s terrible. But he’s the guy who invented the stock gap, which are Toronto. And it’s basically it’s an incredibly simple solution to a statics. So yeah, he’s got a wheelchair. He’s an engineer, and he was like, I hate inconveniencing people to like, put out a ramp. And he’s like, gonna get that every building can’t rip up their stairs. But if it’s one step, here’s a wedge. Yeah, just fucking brilliant. Yeah, really? Piece of incredibly so. So I was like, completely, fanboy out over this guy. Right? Oh, my God. But um, so. So yeah, can I were there to talk about creating theatre for the HBO generation, which is the what we when we started, what we dumped our target audience, which is young professionals, and talking a lot about what we talked about right off the top of this. You know, why? What makes a live event matter. And the theme of the talk was switch. So they’re like, switching your mindset, just making a little mental shift. And the thing was, we were fully aware that the people listening weren’t listening and watching weren’t all fear people. The majority of them aren’t. So we didn’t want to have to just be like, here’s how art works.
Phil Rickaby 44:08
Yes, of course.
Tom McGee 44:10
These guys. And so our big message was about audience. Both my dramaturgical practice my day job as communications consultant is all about making sure that we’re taking audience into account when we’re doing things shaking Shaco taking into account the idea that we’re not just doing Shakespeare for Shakespeare sake, we’re doing Shakespeare because these kids need to get it before it comes along. Yeah. And similarly with brouhaha or idea of, you know, we’re looking at our friends, like, Well, why aren’t these guys going to theatre and generally it’s the things we talked about off the bed, didn’t want spend $100 to spend four hours in a dark room watching something good, barely understandable, like Yeah, what they do want is something that enhances their evening so you know, that we took so we basically covered the history of brief history of the company but through this lens Have we realised that there were parts of theatre that weren’t working for the audience that meet identified? So we tried to think about them and then restructure how we worked on that, which I think is valuable for anything. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. It was great. It was a tremendous experience. It’s super cool. We were both super nervous and super sick. So we like got completely off track, but there were two of us. So it was funny to have half the comments if there’s like some coming up afterwards be like, I can’t believe you learn all those lines. Yes. Yeah. It was funny because like, it has to be like, Oh man, and great message. Oh, I have to like, wow, like you guys covered so well. Your your, you know, rep our tastes so good. Because there was literally a moment where it turned academies, we had like a slideshow going. And we were way off track because I’d skipped transitional. And I was like, just you know, God, and we are we are really off track. So don’t worry, you can get back just took us back. Like, help was like, gotcha. But yeah, it was a blast. It is terrifying. Can’t bring up notes. No, no, I’ve
Phil Rickaby 45:58
always noticed that, like, it’s a note free.
Tom McGee 46:01
Because they want to be natural. Yeah, from from your voice as you can, which is which is great. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t get off casually. But it does also mean that it is okay. Hopefully for you.
Phil Rickaby 46:13
Tom McGee 46:15
There’s there’s this inclination to lecture at teenagers. Absolutely. Or this, you know, well, listen, you know, I’m just,
Phil Rickaby 46:26
I’m hip, like, you know, yeah. And so
Tom McGee 46:29
our thing was more, you know, we, we tried to skirt that line of like, look, we we think you’ve identified some of the things that you like, and if you’re basically our our lines, like, if you’re like us, then this will binge watch NetFlix will do this and do this, rather than you do this. Yes. Yeah. Because second.
Phil Rickaby 46:49
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Tom McGee 46:51
Yeah, it was. It was super cool. And
Phil Rickaby 46:54
awesome. Now, we’ve mentioned cat you’ve mentioned brouhaha. Did you first when When did you and cat Sandler form theatre brouhaha? Or did it happen?
Tom McGee 47:09
In 2011, late 2010, early 2011. I think somewhere in there
Phil Rickaby 47:16
was the first play of the last six months of sex money, right? Yeah. And
Tom McGee 47:20
it served for two reasons. I was a through my Master’s at U of T at the time, which was like a one year programme super fast, very kind of had a bit of a dramaturgical Ben. So it’s kind of that mindset that was basically trying to, she was trying to pass two plays off and one play contest. So she’s like, I’m submitting to this contest that needs a like, one act play, I have these two short plays. And I’m wondering if I could just submit those because, like, lengthwise, and they have similar themes. So she was like, Can you come over and take a look? So I was looking at these things. I’m like, Well, if you make this character, this character, like if you make this guy, the same guy, and this girl, the same girl, but it’s the same, it’s one discontinuous play, there’s just a beat in the middle, right? And can I work together on a bunch of stuff, we were in school. And so it was an easy transition. And what was particularly helpful was knowing, knowing her personally very well made dramaturgy a lot easier, because there were things that I was like, Well, this is this isn’t a character talking. This is just you, this is your right. It’s okay, if the character has that opinion. But pick the MCATs extraordinarily good, like, almost to a fault about letting people into her process. Which means that a an over philosophy and our company philosophy has always been the more the more brains we have on a thing chance on, the better it’s going to be there’s no sense of being precious about, like, oh, no, I need complete authorship I need you know, yeah, yeah, this is my baby. It’s the audience thing.
Phil Rickaby 48:50
It doesn’t actually get you anywhere to be to to shut everybody
Tom McGee 48:53
out. And there are there are there are always times you need to like put your foot down be like, No, this is what we we got into an argument early because we do readings all the time to process. And it was it was great. But we basically were reading a play that didn’t have an ending yet. I know Danny was but it wasn’t written. And it was very informative. It was very early my process. It’s very young, dramaturge mistake. We were like, Hey, how do you guys think it ends and it set off a fucking shitstorm? Well, and it was great. People were really passionate about like how it ought to end right. But the danger of that, of course, is you start looking at your own end and be like, Oh,
Phil Rickaby 49:29
God, can I get it? Right? Yeah, no, totally.
Tom McGee 49:32
Which really, I had had been with Hamilton, actually as well. Where I asked for TAs like, Should we have a song? It was really interesting. We’re very very tight. Yeah, pass but we there was like a line straight down the room half. We were like, we need the song as part of a piece. other half was like, No, absolutely not. it cheapens the whole thing. And then we found like a nice mid ground, but as a writer, I was like, Oh,
Phil Rickaby 49:51
yeah. But yeah,
Tom McGee 49:54
so last six months was our first our first piece and it was called those six months because we, the model we took was cat’s sisters douchey ex boyfriend, and we’re like, what gets this guy because we never see this guy in the theatre, but he represents an archetype that we’re like, this guy never fucking goes, right? What does he like? You like sex, he likes money, he probably wants love. So we went pretty, pretty literal on the first go, but we are using a model of an actual audience member was super, super helpful. We want that young professional who’s just starting out, start to form their cultural habits, who finally has money to spend on on luxury and lifestyle as well as necessities. And basically, you know, it’s like, people who just graduate from school or getting their first place in the sea. And like, maybe they’re like, you know, what, I always told myself, when I got my first real job, like, I would get a season for I go see an offer, I never seen an opera, I’m gonna go see, whatever. And we’re like, we need to get in there now rather than 20 years from now be like, hey, theatre is irrelevant. Please come. But we want to hop in there. The thing is that so our TED talk is about the age of content. And basically, we’re in the age of content right now. So we’re asking you to leave your house, leave 13 hours of Netflix, video games, internet, movies, whatever, and come to our theatre, like we have to be providing something that’s that speaks directly to you. Absolutely. Yeah. For us. It
Phil Rickaby 51:26
has to be Yeah,
Tom McGee 51:27
go for you. So that’s the model we took was like, Okay, well, what someone who made a couple of bands and I have friends who I can say to like, Hey, there’s this band I heard is good. They’re playing down the street at a bar. $10 cover you in there like Yeah, absolutely. As opposed to hey, my friends in a show is down the street. The storefront it’s 10 bucks wanna go pack?
Phil Rickaby 51:45
I don’t know. Yeah, that’s, that’s that’s a funny thing. The audience is this funny thing. We people have it in their head. That not just that it’s like, that’s my whole night gone. But that it’s an unpleasant experience, either financially, or, or something, something else, I think, you know, we’ve seen lots of depictions in the media of somebody who went to a horrible play, or whatever, but people are unwilling to, and a lot of cases to get out and go
Tom McGee 52:12
something that we can’t hit on this one. We’re working on a TED talk that I hadn’t even thought of, but it’s absolutely true. He is. A lot of people will say we’ve heard a lot of I went to a play once and I didn’t like it. I don’t like theatre, right? Which would be the equivalent of saying, I listened to a Kanye song. I didn’t like it. I hate music. Like, it’s just I
Phil Rickaby 52:35
watched the TV show once. It wasn’t very good. I’m not going to watch anymore.
Tom McGee 52:41
I tried to care at once didn’t care for it. No vegetables for us. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s certainly not a conscious thing people do. But yeah, that shit happens all day. Yeah, yeah. So part of it was an it’s our everything from our and one of the reasons that brouhaha has been so successful other than, you know, cat being a tremendously quick, intelligent writer director is that we’ve, since day one, we committed to running a business, not just a show. And I think one of the pitfalls of starting a company, a theatre company is not considering the last show, not the company that has to survive around.
Phil Rickaby 53:18
Yeah. Was that a conscious decision? Did you guys come up with that at the same time, or did you want to do a show and
Tom McGee 53:25
that was very conscious. We both runs here in Kingston is a great town for building theatre companies in Queens, Canada, and both run theatre companies. She does a lot of productions through the department as well as ones that she’d run. I ran several companies, one of which basically evolved in shakey shake there, and what I found very instructive, there was it Kingston is a beautiful town for theatres, like, people just show up, they just fucking come to your shows. It’s crazy. Just people from towns like show up and you know, you paid your $10 and watch your production, you know, never swim alone or whatever. Like, it’s crazy. So what’s interesting with that, well, I noticed a lot was that people start a company and they’re like, Okay, I’m doing capital sales. And let’s say so I’m going to call it The Death of a Salesman Theatre Company, because that’s definitely salesman. Great. And holy shit, we need a bag of money. And you keep saying, what are you going to do next? Well, I hadn’t thought of that. All I knew is that I have a childhood dream to be Willy Loman. So I made a company so I could do that. And I did that. But now I’m holding a sack of dough. And I don’t want to do with it. And my company’s called the fucking gap a salesman collector, so I can’t that’d be like devastatingly collected presents. Sound of Music.
Phil Rickaby 54:35
Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Tom McGee 54:37
So yeah, because we’ve had that experience when we made when we made the raw we’re like, okay, so we were gonna think about the company as much as the show. Because we, at that point, we weren’t like, Oh, yeah. So for the next one, we were fully focused on that, that first production and you know, whether it works or not, but we also wanted to make sure that our business practices were sound and in terms of the first show, what that meant was things like this It needs to look slick. Like no matter how cheap it is, it needs to look very, very slick.
Phil Rickaby 55:05
I think you’ll see enough of that in the theatre, I think. Yeah. I think a lot of times it looks cheap.
Tom McGee 55:11
Yeah, absolutely. And part of that is realising like, if you can’t build it effectively don’t. Yeah. Which is, which is weird because the the instinct is always like, well, you know, I’m pretty sure I can make floss it looks enough like a house.
Phil Rickaby 55:23
Print, chances are you can or just don’t do it. And you probably don’t need it like, but yeah, exactly. A lot of times, a lot of times an empty stage can be more effective than a crappy cell.
Tom McGee 55:33
And so part of our audience brain exactly is that if Why am I doing litmus test you basically the way I, the way my dramaturgical purchase works is I try to be the first audience member in the development script, but in everything, because essentially what I’m trying to root out is noise, strengthen the signal or reduce the noise. And part of the noise for me is if I’m sitting there, like, Damn, that looks cheap. Yes. Well, I’m not listening to you, you can be delivering the most perfect, you know, monologue that’s ever been written. But there are a number of factors you can’t control. I can’t control how your nights been going inside the theatre experience. I can’t control how comfortable or uncomfortable the seats are. Generally, yes, that just goes territory. I can’t control your digestion based on what you ate or drank before the show. What I can do is ensure that as much as many distracting factors are reduced as possible. And that’s that’s part of it. So yeah, if I can’t convincingly do blank, what workarounds do we have that will prevent you from just stopping and unplugging on what Yeah, and that sort of script as well? If someone says or does something that kind of makes you look good? Rape is often the thing that just gets
Phil Rickaby 56:42
like dropped thrown in like just like the the termites and this
Tom McGee 56:45
is kind of terrible. The term I started using is the raid Kool Aid man. Because for my mind rate is like the Kool Aid man, when you say, when a character has talked about right in the play, it’s like the Kool Aid man burst through a wall and the audience goes, Oh, my God, the Kool Aid, man, if you drop it, never deal with it again. We’re still aware that the fucking Kool Aid MAN Yeah, I swear, I’m like, Are we never going to address the fact that this rape happened? Yeah. And again, as an audience member, I’m gone. Yeah. Yeah. But that even put it like Glengarry Glen Ross, when they the first time they see the leads, I don’t know what the fuck the leads are. And what that is, yeah, man that never bothered to explain, because at the time, it was a known parlance. But again, that’s it. I think we’re migraines goes. Wait, what? Yeah, yeah. So we’re very conscious about that sort of thing. But also advertising, because to my mind, the first, your first exposure to a play isn’t when the curtain goes up. It’s the minute you hear about it, whether that’s the press release, postcard word of mouth, whatever. So we want to control that as much of that experience as we can. So we look to things like HBO. And we’ve always spent a lot of time and money trying to craft a depart from the appropriate image to tell a story game sighted, and basically conveyed you like, this is the kind of vibe you’re going for. And just again, that’s the danger, right? Like, with so much content available to me. If I’m not, it’s terrible, but the don’t judge a book by its cover thing in this age doesn’t count anymore.
Phil Rickaby 58:11
No, we’re always judging books by their covers, do books. Yeah, have
Tom McGee 58:15
to look yeah, we’re in a, we’re in an age where it’s so easy to make a good looking book cover. Similarly, we’re in an age where there’s so many digital tools for manipulating images for creating fonts, even like it’s insane. So, you know, all of those factors when we’re at work, and continue to be at work in the company, I think that’s one of the reasons why our branding is is consistent that people are able to go even just visually like that looks like a brouhaha thing, right. Which is great, because we want the the general, the general conceit I’ve been playing with is the like, it’s like a colon Brothers movie. You may not like every Coen Brothers movie, but you’re like, oh, it’s going brothers. Yeah, you know, I’m gonna get a shot. But you know, I know a bunch of people hate Burn After Reading but love No Country for Old Men. Those are two violently different films. Yeah. But you’re still like, well, I if I like this, the I like these content creators, so I’ll go to whatever they do. Yeah, I’ll pick my favourites and leave the rest. From there. Perfect. But yeah, so the business, the business angle that was definitely there from day one. And it goes into the scripts as well. When creating a script, it isn’t just, this is a neat idea. Let’s let’s just pop this up. It’s you know, why? Why this? Why now? What’s interesting about it, what, what are the big hooks? What’s the I mean, the elevator pitch is one of the first things we come up with, after initial script ideas. Write it again, with a tweet length. Like elevator pitch. There’s just too much content.
Phil Rickaby 59:41
Absolutely. Yeah. You mentioned almost off the top that you had a blog and a podcast that had been dormant, but that are coming back. Can you what let’s just share those.
Tom McGee 59:52
So I read your blog called will happen.ca which is I’m a classics not reading classics and I love mythology and I realised a friend of mine lent me a bunch of comic books and I got back huge and got one on a blind Vinci spot on comics, but what was interesting was we were arguing about Superman I was like Superman’s garbage he’s like No, Superman is really interesting read these three, and I read them and what started to strike me was that much like mythological heroes from you know, myth legend, fairy tale everything else. There were certain factors that had to be true of these characters. And it was just like, you know, the Greeks coming up with endless stories about Hercules being like oh man, then there’s this time where can we get this? Where care characters like Batman like spider man the X Men like all these characters that we really we identify like these are the fundamental tenants of this character enough that we be like that No, that doesn’t know we can’t can’t have that you can’t have that and shouldn’t people to gun unless it’s you know, pulpy 1930s Batman killed a lot of people. But so I started examining that and just sort of digging into nerd things that I found interesting. So I did a what turned out to be extraordinarily long essay on the Resident Evil films, and analysing the game and comparison game to film but also the weirdness of how continuity obsessed that series is like it remembers its own history so fucking well which is weird because as a continuity not that’s the thing that always bugs me. Yeah, films like you don’t remember what happened to films get what fuck you. With those films? Like no, no. six films ago, Michelle Rodriguez said this. And then we brought her back mysteriously and she’s gonna say that line again. Good.
Phil Rickaby 1:01:40
Tom McGee 1:01:42
So that I did a whole
whole Ben Affleck Batman thing back in the day. Part of it also is that because I had to consuming a lot of media, I can often answer questions that people have like my friends. Like, when Bane was announced as the villain before Dark Knight Rises, people were like, Why fuck he’s been in because they all they remember game from was Batman and Robin is this big, dumb, stupid character. And after Heath Ledger Joker is like, this is what you’re getting? Yeah, yeah. So I wrote a whole thing. Like, here’s why this character is amazing. And where he’s placed in the comics is and blah, blah, blah. And the most recent one is about the new, Fantastic Four film, which so much has already great materials, or has been written about. But for me, I wanted to approach it from the perspective of the greedy superhero filter that we seem to just be slapping wholesale, on movies, and it doesn’t fit every movie, and particularly the fantastic for such a bright, colourful adventure. And like, I don’t like to fantastic for it. I’ll read the fantastic number. But this film is such a weird version of that.
Phil Rickaby 1:02:44
So the funny thing is that I don’t read the Fantastic Four, either. But I know when it’s like I know the Fantastic Four. And I know when I see the Fantastic Four, you know, it’s like, Yes, that’s right. No, that’s wrong. Absolutely.
Tom McGee 1:02:57
And that’s, to my mind. That’s why one of one of the the headings on the website is modern mythology. It’s like we there are things even if you don’t, I always liken it to parents being like, oh, yeah, Wolverine, he’s the guy with the claws, right? Yeah, there are certain things that we know. And no matter what your version is, you know, there’s people whose Batman is out in West and like, when you say Batman, they see how Yeah, like holy holding a doughnut, Batman. Yeah. There are people I think like growing up in the 90s Batman cartoon like that’s my Batman. Yeah, he’s you know, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill. That you have people now where they’re Batman is Christian Bale. Yeah, arguing with the new Batman vs. Superman film insisting that in the same universe as the Christopher Nolan films, because they just can’t let go.
Phil Rickaby 1:03:46
They can’t let go of their Batman. Yeah.
Tom McGee 1:03:50
Anyway, so that’s, that’s that so bring that back for a while it was doing an advice column as well, where people would be like, What the fuck is Magic the Gathering? Why do people but I realised that there are far easier resources for that. So yeah, so it’s mostly digging that so fantastic for is going up next week. And then the next one I’m doing is on the weird summer we’ve had a film’s than Force Awakens is kind of a capstone to it. But over the course of this previous summer, we saw a really interesting trend in remakes sort of like soft reboots, and sequels that are also remakes. So it’s basically an examination of Terminator Genesis Jurassic World vacation and now I’m going to tap star was on hand, because, like vacation was a sequel that also basically basically did the Force Awakens thing and so sequel that also kind of rehashes the original film right for a new audience, but he’s still in the continuity of the previous threat films, you get Terminator Genesis, which just completely re does the first two films in its own new continuity to try and bring audiences in just kind of like the the Edit You got the old a missile project on Star Trek as well. It’s got the JJ Abrams, like alternate universe thing where it’s like, okay, don’t worry, your stuff is fine. Here’s an alternative universe where all this is happening. So don’t worry.
Phil Rickaby 1:05:11
Of course, you know, Star Trek continuity stuff is like no, no, you can’t talk my stuff.
Tom McGee 1:05:15
I was furious. Like half that first movie being like, Wait a minute. Did you fuck with my next generation? Yeah,
Phil Rickaby 1:05:20
yeah, you get you get out if you get out of this room
Tom McGee 1:05:23
out here. And then later, it’s like, no, no, it’s an alternate universe. We’re good. We’re good. Anyway, so that’s that side of things. And then the podcast I wrote with my wife was called please, sir, I want some more. And it’s a sequels podcast. I was listening to a lot of podcasts and being a continuity not one of the things I find really interesting is sequels and what? What makes it it was specifically what you wanted coming out of a film, but first film, and what you’ve got, I think, is really interesting. I can argue with friends when particularly as a kid like is really excited about sequels as opposed to now and really, yeah, really, like Twister theory is perfect. I don’t need more, please don’t bring this to me. And, you know, fingers crossed Toy Story fourth grade, but really, I, we got her
Phil Rickaby 1:06:07
there are some films that have that have come out. I’m like, okay, they’re making a sequel for that. I can’t wait to see that sequel. And a lot of times, you’re like, oh, there’s gonna be a sequel for that.
Tom McGee 1:06:14
Well, even the ones that you really excited for but one of the phenomena that we examined a bit is like you start to formulate in your head what you think the next story? Right? Yeah. You know, what’s there? What can be teased out? What further things? Can
Phil Rickaby 1:06:28
we also have this culture on the internet where there’s like, there are websites? That’s what they do? Absolutely. You know, and there’s a trailer let’s what can we tease out from the trailer with the end of the movie? What can we tease out from that? It’s a never never ending thing. Yeah.
Tom McGee 1:06:41
Well, it’s never ending. Our next one is the Neverending Story, part two. But yeah,
Phil Rickaby 1:06:45
is there ever any surprise?
Tom McGee 1:06:47
Yeah, and for three, what? Oh, my God. So
Phil Rickaby 1:06:49
did these actually come out? And I never knew.
Tom McGee 1:06:51
Yeah, but yeah, so the story of neverending story two was the first one came out. Huge success, obviously, but also foreign film, which a lot of people don’t know. So that that they the next one they need in I think, in the US, completely different cast. Weirdly, it’s more true to the book than the first film was. But it’s and you can find out all about it. And but yes, but it is like it’s literally like the first film didn’t happen. There. What’s really strange is it was a perfect example of like, what did you think you were gonna get? What did you actually get? Yeah, so if you’ll remember, at the end of the first film, Bastiat, the little boys would reading the book gets unlimited wishes, and you can play around in whatever the for as long as he wants, and he ends up writing Falkor scaring his bullies. And so I was like, Okay, well, the sequel logically that like Narnia would be that gap that we don’t see where he’s like, fucking around, doing whatever he wants. No second film starts off. It’s like nothing. It’s like, no one remembers anything happened. He goes into the book. And it’s this crazy thing where our hero from the first book, a tray you is basically just second banana sidekick. Suddenly, it’s like the story of Little boy running around. It’s a train wreck. Wow. Fucking ghastly film. And the third one is they come into our world and start Jack Black. And it is a great, but it’s so it’s such a strange film. And it was a blast. What was weird was my wife watched it as a kid. So her experience of it violently different from mine watching both of them for the first time, like last month. So yeah, so that’s the kind of stuff we dig into. And basically, you know, talk about what we liked and didn’t like, what we expected and what we got, which is always fun. Because it’s, it’s a lot of times we like this is what the producers or writers of this film, thought we wanted more of. Really, Pirates of the Caribbean we did the second one really early on and like that. That series is the first three anyway, it’s a fascinating look at producers going like, Oh, you’d like this have more you know? Yeah, Virgin like Jack Sparrow. So put some Jack Sparrow on your Jack Sparrow? Yeah, like, I guess yeah, we’re, you know, he like twists. So everyone’s portraying everyone all the time. And let’s just you look at that look at continuity, again, like the The Neverending Story one the continuity is so for the second film, because it just it’s a soft reboot, basically. Yeah, but in continuity, like there’s a convention in the book that they wanted in the movie, so they just like kind of magically retcon it and so they’ll be like, yeah, jurassic park three takes the book continuity. Yes. Or Dr. Grande Dr. Sandwich relationship where they bought together Yeah, where’s the film is like no, no, like we’re rooting for these guys. Yeah, look, yes, guys. Give them 30. Oh, no, she buried somewhere else. Don’t worry about it. Yeah. But the books like it’s weird. They they pick up the books, right? And it’s like this. So that’s the kind of stuff we we didn’t get to. We also just did a real fun one with folks from Shakespeare bash for good Sex in the City too. Which is, again a god awful train wreck but also a fascinating example of this is What you thought we wanted based on the series in these characters? This is the further adventure that you thought we would dig.
Phil Rickaby 1:10:09
Now when you’re doing the sequels podcast, are you just watching the sequels? Or if you haven’t seen the first one, do you watch that too, I
Tom McGee 1:10:15
generally try to watch both, regardless, in large part because watching the first column, knowing that you’re about to analyse a sequel, means you’re looking for different rights. So for instance, and sometimes I’m gonna fill in years, so it’s useful, but like, Second City one I remember I’d seen, but I couldn’t remember anything about it. I remember wanting to plot points, right? As weird as when I was talking to Julia, who was a guest on it. She had the same reaction. She’s like, I know, I watched it. But there’s nothing there. He’s like, the file doesn’t exist. And then, so we rewatched it. And I was like, oh, yeah, no, I remember the scene only. I don’t know. Okay. Yeah. So in that case, was useful just to get Yes, yeah, is that in terms of something like the Neverending Story? And I’ve seen it so super useful to watch right? That right before going into the next one. And, yeah, it really really brings sequels into harsh, harsher focus when you’re just don’t immediately from one film to the next. Yeah. And what for instance, like Megan was saying, as a kid, she never really noticed how different the second film feels. But when you watch them or any story, one and then two, in addition to the actors being different, it’s just like it made independently designed like, also the effects are just fucking garbage like like rejecting 60 Doctor Who villains that they like found in a dumpster like this will do. Yeah. So yeah, so Jeremy wants both which can be like six hours of sex and city films was pretty rough. Yeah. I could watch that many hours of the show would be quite content without any errors. The film’s was a bit of a rough ride. But yeah, so we’re having a lot of fun with that. And life got in the way. So we we went on hiatus for a bit, but
Phil Rickaby 1:11:58
and that’s, that’s what happened. happened.ca
Tom McGee 1:12:01
which is wha Ha, pp n.ca. And, yeah, it’s on iTunes and all that. All that fun stuff.
Phil Rickaby 1:12:09
And are you are you on Twitter and the Twitter?
Tom McGee 1:12:12
I’m on Twitter at TD so McG e. T. D, where I yeah, I go through spells where I’m like, extraordinarily active on Twitter, and then it was just lurking. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 1:12:24
Yeah. Do you have an acting website as well?
Tom McGee 1:12:26
I do. My personal websites TD mcgee.com. I haven’t updated in a while. But that is on my new year’s list of things to do. All right. But yeah, and then certainly theatre brouhaha.com For bra stuff and chicken chicken friends.com. For all things shakey chick, will be renouncing our Hamlet’s and April and May as part of the best of breed kids. If you feel like seeing a bunch of poverty and murder to get them head up to silver stage. Yeah, check that out. And yeah, for brouhaha. We’ve got mustard opening
Phil Rickaby 1:13:00
Terracon is not really ever show. No, but it’s Yeah,
Tom McGee 1:13:03
yeah. Worked on the strip back in the day. But imaginary friend, desperate attempt to stay in our world and falling in love, which is amazing. Great. Yeah, if you’re in Cape Breton, Virginia play there in
Phil Rickaby 1:13:14
February. What do you what are you directing there?
Tom McGee 1:13:17
It’s a deep dives, short play. Caution. I literally just signed on this in two days ago. So to be fast and furious, but pretty exciting. So so all of the timing and stuff, the Highland arts Theatre, which is a really cool new space that’s popped
Phil Rickaby 1:13:32
up out there. And that’s happening in February 10. Okay,
Tom McGee 1:13:36
it’s gonna be kind of fast to
Phil Rickaby 1:13:38
Tom McGee 1:13:40
But yeah, should be a lot of fun. It’s, yeah, it’s three, three activists who actually did punch up, which is a brouhaha show, early last year, and they were like, we want to do another thing together. And so they put together this question plays. Yeah, there’s all kinds of stuff. There’s your typewriter. There’s Trotsky with big accidents.
Phil Rickaby 1:14:01
Great. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. It’s been great.