Exploring Happiness through cash
Photo: Marta Kierkus
Very early in their acting careers, actors Tony Adams and Cory Thibert attended a quasi-scam talent scouting event.The deal was if you paid $900, the company would fly you to Boston to meet acting agents so you could “make it big.”
Although they say at the time they both knew it was ridiculous, Adams says having this doubt—“Are we missing out if we don’t do this?”—ended up inspiring the pair’s present-day production.
This concept of an impossible sell, making something as complex as success so simple, intrigued their theatrical creation Happiness.
With the tagline, “Happiness is not a fish you can catch; and unfortunately, sadness is not a finger you can cut off,” May Can Theatre’s production of Happiness, running until March 21 at Arts Court, brings you into the world of two spokespeople for the fictional company HPL.
Created by Adams, Thibert, and Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, Happiness focuses on a fictional self-help seminar. The audience arrives at the set of a trade convention in the theatre lobby, with booths and product displays such as the “Happy Hook-up” and “The Sleepscape,” which eliminates bad memories, before taking their seats.
The play reflects how far people will go to find happiness in their own lives, spending money to seek an intangible feeling.
They’ve come a long way since their first draft, performed in a café with paper props at the 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival.
The three of them wrote the current script for Happiness, with Adams and Thibert as the main characters and Boyes-Manseau directing the performance. In an effort to explore all their talents in Happiness, Thibert, who is also a filmmaker, created promotional videos for the make-believe company, which are shown before the performance.
“It pretty much started because we just assumed that nobody would give us work,” Adams says of their acting careers.
Both Adams and Thibert started acting in the city, including in plays at the University of Ottawa, as soon as they finished college. Adams planned to go to university to become a teacher, but theatre started to go well for him and his childhood friend, and they ended up founding May Can Theatre.
They were soon joined by their good friend Boyes-Manseau, a theatre and arts administration graduate from the U of O, as their artistic associate.
“She brings a lot of what we don’t have, which is organization,” says Thibert.
Boyes-Manseau says her background in arts administration has been very useful. She says it’s important for artists to know how to write grant applications and handle the finances of their company.
“No one’s going to do the administrative work just so you can do your art,” she says.
The May Can Theatre members’ advice to other actors is simple: start young, get your bad shows out of the way before you have a reputation, and find your groove.
May Can Theatre will also take Happiness to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this summer. After that, the trio isn’t sure what’s next.
“We don’t want to create something just to create something,” says Adams. “It’s important to make shows that are relevant to you rather than to keep you relevant.”
Happiness runs until March 21 at Arts Court at 2 Daly Ave. Tickets are available at artscourt.ca for $20–25.