The Birds are coming! The Birds are coming!


Mrs. Bundy (Holly Zammerilla) warns Melanie Daniels (Steven Michael Kennedy) that birds bite! COURTESY PHOTO

Annette Trossbach, artistic producing director of The Laboratory Theater of Florida, has a wall of Peeps in her office — that fluorescent yellow, marshmallow treat typically sold at Easter.

“We’ve purchased purchased 4,000 of them,” she says, buying them at Dollar General and the Dollar Store.

The crates cover an entire wall.

“Every box has 24 packages of Peeps in it,” she says.

And each package contains five Peeps, a row of sugar and marshmallow baby chicks joined together in gooey sweetness.

The thousands of Peeps will be used as a prop in the venue’s upcoming show, “The Birds: A Parody,” opening June 3 and running through July 2.

The play satirizes Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1963 movie, “The Birds,” in which birds become aggressive and begin attacking humans in a small coastal California town.

Ms. Trossbach wrote the parody and is also directing it.

Not only will the stage crew throw 500 Peeps from the wings at every show, but audience members will also be urged to throw them a la “The Rocky Horror Show.” Peeps will be available for purchase in the lobby.

The theater is trying to set a world record with this world premiere.

“We will have a minimum of 500 Peeps thrown per show,” she says. “We are counting them, will document it with video, and will have spread sheets and info.”

That will all be submitted to recordsetter.com.

“The current record for Peeps used in a performance is 12,” Ms. Trossbach says. “It had something to do with the number of Peeps that could be balanced on a child’s head. We’ll be beating that by a long shot for the number of Peeps used in a performance.”

She originally had the idea to use them in a scene where the lead, Melanie Daniels, is hiding in a glass phone booth while seagulls attack it.

“In the parody, we’re going to use birds on wires, and projection of birds. My original idea was to have the stage crew in the wings, throwing handfuls of Peeps at the phone booth.

“But it wasn’t enough,” she says. “So that’s where we got the idea: we need to sell Peeps in the lobby so that audience members can also throw Peeps at the phone booth too. And from there, I realized, there are three scenes in which the audience can throw Peeps.”

She lists them: “The first scene is when they’re sitting down to dinner and swifts start flying out of the fireplace and fill up the room. Then the scene in the phone booth. And the third is when Melanie goes up into the attic to investigate a sound.”

Ms. Trossbach first saw the iconic movie in the ’90s, while living in Chicago. But she watched it numerous times since then, and various scenes from it, while writing her parody.

“I love these parodies of horror movies,” she says. “I’m delighted and entertained by them, myself. I have a really silly sense of humor.

“I have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy.”

The Lab has a tradition of putting on parodies of horror films during the month of June.

In past years it has staged “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: A Parody of the Horror,” “Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte” and last year’s “Sunset Schmoulevard,” which was also written by Ms. Trossbach.

She is inspired by Monty Python, Bugs Bunny cartoons and the colors and symmetry of Wes Anderson films, she says.

“I’m also inspired by the theatricality of early Baz Luhrmann and early Pedro Almodovar,” she says, naming two other movie directors. “I’m inspired by these really theatrical storytellers.”

“And I’m also interested in gender roles, in how and why we continue to enjoy men playing women in an over-the-top way. I enjoy drag shows, I enjoy camp. It’s highly theatrical, self-aware and rooted in LGBT themes.”

In “The Birds: A Parody,” she cast Steven Michael Kennedy as Melanie Daniels, the part Tippi Hedren played in the movie.

“It’s a very exaggerated female form,” she says. “I find it interesting to take those forms and those subtleties from the horror movies and expand upon them. For example, the nervousness of the townspeople. They blame Melanie for all the problems with the birds. I’m presenting that in an over-the-top way. The sexual tension between Melanie and Mitch; it’s subtle in the film, but it’s not going to be subtle in our production.”

The character of Melanie will also break the fourth wall throughout the show, talking directly to people in the audience and having side conversations with them, especially those sitting in the front row.

“He’ll be very cheeky and have lots of double entendres,” she says.

During rehearsals, the actors and creative team feel free to come up with suggestions.

“One of the fun things is the collaboration with the actors,” Ms. Trossbach says. “Not all my jokes landed; some needed to be refined. Actors have come up with things: ‘What if we tried it this way?’ I’ve curated over time a group of actors I like to work with who know the direction I’m going with something and feel comfortable chasing and trying things out. If it doesn’t work, no hard feelings. Everybody has brought a lot to the table; they’re all invested and excited about it.”

She is reduced to tears of laughter at every rehearsal, she says, adding, “It is ridiculously funny. It’s full of sight gags and camp and double entendres.”

“How do we delight and surprise audiences who may be expecting a more realistic production? We have human actors playing birds throughout the show. They’re going to see birds on wires, on projections, and they’re going to see actors coming out dressed as various birds and attacking the children.”

People can expect to see love birds, crows and seagulls, as well as an ostrich, a turkey and a chicken, she says.

And obviously, lots and lots of Peeps. ¦

In the KNOW

“The Birds: A Parody”

When: June 3 – July 2

Where: The Laboratory Theater of Fort Myers, 1634 Woodford Ave., Fort Myers

Cost: $30 ($10 for students with valid ID) and $25 for adults on Thursdays

Information: 239-218-0841 or www.laboratorytheaterflorida.com

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