Every night, the public throws objects at actor Steven Michael Kennedy. And it’s not just the theater audience: the cast and crew also throw things away.
However, they don’t attack Kennedy with Rotten Tomatoes.
They throw Peeps – marshmallows, Peeps candy.
“It can be crazy,” Kennedy says. “Some people throw them very lightly. But others try, like – a 90 mph baseball thrown at your face. …
“It’s a crazy experience, because they come from all over.”
A new theatre:The Belle of Cape Coral opens with summer camps and a full season of shows
The new season of Lab Théâtre:‘Sweeney Todd’, a goofy parody of ‘The Birds’ and more
It’s not like audiences hated Kennedy’s performance at the Lab Theater (at least, judging by the laughter they hear every night). It’s all part of the show: a silly, raunchy parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, filled with sex jokes, gender-specific performances and lots and lots of Peeps.
“It’s hundreds and hundreds of Peeps that are used and launched,” says the show’s writer and director, Annette Trossbach. “Maybe some members of the public eat them too. But most of the time they just get thrown on stage.
Trossbach thought it would be hilarious.
In Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film, birds attack and kill people in the village of Bodega Bay, California. But Trossbach’s parody is meant to elicit laughter, not terrified screams, from the audience.
Thus, the characters of the series are attacked by a fake seagull hanging from a fishing rod. And the actors wave around in bird costumes and say “Caw! Croak!” And, yes, people are throwing chick- and marshmallow-shaped Peeps candies from the audience and the sides of the stage — plus an entire box of 340 Peeps thrown at Kennedy during the famous phone booth scene.
In all, there are at least 500 Peeps used on each show, Trossbach says. And sometimes up to 700 or more, as the audience is enticed to buy Peeps in the lobby and throw them on stage (see details in box below).
“We had this incredible volley of Peeps from the crowd,” Trossbach said. “It’s just fun.”
“The Birds” world record attempt with Peeps
It’s not just good, goofy fun, though. Lab Theater hopes to set a world record for the most Peeps used during a theater production.
It’s not a hard record to beat, mind you. The current record is 12 and involved an actor balancing 12 Peeps on a child’s head during a variety show, Trossbach says.
“We’re going to get it,” she says of that world record. “But I don’t want to stop at 500. If the public can help us get over 1,000, that would be amazing.”
They will set this record through RecordSetter, one of many companies that have grown over the past 15 years as long-standing Guinness World Records contenders. Guinness was just too expensive, Trossbach says: $13,000 for a representative to visit Fort Myers and check how many Peeps were used.
RecordSetter is free, says Trossbach. Lab Theater just needs to provide videos, photos and other documentation proving the number of Peeps used during production. Just in case, they also pack up all the Peeps used during each show and store them.
“So we have freezers full of Peeps at this point,” Trossbach says. “I just want to be able to prove it. I don’t want anything to stop us from proving it and winning this thing.
Lab Theater summer tradition
This isn’t the first parody of Lab Theater, of course. It’s the latest installment in a summertime tradition: a campy movie spoof every June during Pride Month.
It’s a tradition that began in 2017 with Lab’s parody of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”
“It was so popular,” Trossbach says. “And so much fun.”
The shows are naughty, funny and above all campy. That’s why they always happen during Pride Month. Camp has long been a part of LGBTQ culture, along with drag queens — something that featured frequently in Lab parodies, including the bullet-bra-wearing Kennedy lead character, Katharine Hepburn in “The Birds” ( and no, Hepburn didn’t star in “The Birds. Kennedy just thought it would be funnier).
The Lab Theater might be known for its more serious theater, says Trossbach. But sometimes she just wants to laugh.
“I think we’re pretty well known for making cutting-edge material and really thought-provoking drama,” Trossbach says. “And while I to like that, I also have the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy (Laughs). And so I like to let off steam with these parodies.
The Peeps, of course, takes this annual tradition to a new level.
And they’re much messier, too.
Just ask Adrial McCloud, who plays multiple roles on “The Birds” but also serves as the show’s stage manager. This job includes managing and organizing all the Peeps and other props, making him what you might call the “Peepmaster” of the show.
Sugar from the Peeps can be found everywhere during every performance – in the seats and aisles of the theater, on the costumes and definitely all over the stage. That’s why the show is sponsored by pest control company Hulett Environmental Services. They spray weekly to help prevent cockroaches and sugar ants.
On top of that, the show crew sweeps and cleans the stage several times a day, McCloud says. “That’s the main concern, trying to keep the scene from getting sticky, to the best of our abilities. There’s sugar everywhere.
Still, it’s definitely worth it for the audience reaction each night, she says. They howl with laughter throughout the show, especially that over-the-top phone booth scene.
“Oh, that’s hilarious! McCloud says,
Kennedy feels the same. The actor has previously appeared on audience participation shows with spectators throwing objects on stage (including “The Rocky Horror Show”). But nothing compares to Peeps’ attacks in “The Birds.”
“The consequences of Peeps all over the floor are ridiculous,” he laughs. “It’s an outrageous show… It’s just awesome to be a part of it.”
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at [email protected] or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).
If you are going to
What: “The birds: a parody”
When: Now until July 2
Where: The Laboratory Theater of Florida, 1634 Woodford Ave., downtown Fort Myers
Take part in the world record attempt: Audience members can buy Peeps and throw them on stage when signaled by the onstage screen (wait for the slide that says “Launch your Peeps now!”). Each pack of five Peeps costs $3.
Information: 218-0481 or laboratorytheaterflorida.com