There has been a lot of buzz on campus about the elusive show “Texts.com Presents Shrak the Musical: the Musical,” which premieres this weekend in the WestCo Cafe. The Argus sat down with the creative team of this original show at their beloved meeting place, Pi Café, to get some insight into the show’s origins and evolution. It quickly became apparent that seniors Nick Petrillo, Sky McGilligan, Keegan Dufty, and Liza Pine, four of the show’s writers, directors, and actors, do not take themselves or this show too seriously. The group’s dynamic mirrors that found in sitcoms such as “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother.” It seems as if they are always performing for one another, working off of each other’s energy and improvising their own comedic skits. The interview seemed to be an accurate representation of the writing and rehearsal process of “Shrak”; the conversation was filled with interjections, sarcasm, and laughter all around.
Many students are stupefied as to why this jocular gang of seniors with minimal theater experience is putting on a show, but perhaps no one is as surprised as the creators themselves. Their idea, which started as a joke, turned into an unexpected reality when Second Stage approved their application last semester. Come see “Texts.com Presents Shrak the Musical: the Musical” to satisfy your curiosity and witness the culmination of four years of friendship, shenanigans, and a joke gone too far.
The Argus: Let’s start at the beginning. How was “Shrak” born?
Nick Petrillo: Sky and I were getting dressed for [a Terp rehearsal last semester]. We just had this idea that how funny it would be if we put on the real “Shrek The Musical” because that’s ridiculous in [and] of itself. We thought it would just be really funny to do. We laughed a lot just thinking about that during that rehearsal.
Sky McGilligan: We decided we probably couldn’t afford the rights to a Broadway show. So we thought it might be funnier if we wrote our own version of “Shrek The Musical.”
Liza Pine: Our friends, Charlie [Kaplan ’14] and Ben [Kafoglis ’14], have a piano at their house and Charlie would just sit down and start playing random shit. It sounded pretty good.
SM: So “Shrak: The Musical: The Musical” was born.
NP: It sort of went from this big joke that maybe we were half serious about doing. I mean we shook hands. I don’t think anyone really ever intended on it and then all of a sudden, I don’t know when it happened, but we all sort of decided, “Wait a second, let’s actually do it.”
SM: I think [that happened] when Second Stage picked us up.
Keegan Dufty: We were kind of joking around [saying], “We should send in this application and they’ll shut us down.” Instead we got an email back saying, “So this is your deadline. Come to this meeting.” And we were like, “Okay, I guess we have to write a musical.” It’s a big joke that got out of hand. It really is. And we didn’t know what we were getting into.
SM: It went through a lot of variations. It started as “Shrek: The Musical,” became “Shrak: The Musical: The Musical,” and then eventually became “Texts.com Presents Shrak: The Musical: The Musical.”
A: Can we talk about Texts.com? What is its significance?
NP: Texts.com is the single best website in the history of the web. They’re our emotional support. We don’t really have a sponsor from Peter Frank, class of 2012.
LP: We actually are not receiving any monetary endorsement for this.
NP: Just the endorsement of an incredible businessman.
SM: We figured that Texts.com plays such a huge role in our lives that we should have it play a huge role in our musical as well.
NP: Sky got in touch with Peter Frank and Peter Frank thought it was a good idea. Again, it was a joke that went too far.
SM: I sent him an email a while back being like, “Hey, me and my friends had this idea for a musical and we want to use Texts.com in the title because we think it’s funny.” And he was like, “Yeah I think it’s funny too. Let me know how this develops.” Months later it had become a central role in our musical.
NP: It’s a joke that went too far.
A: Does Texts.com play a role in the show beyond the title?
SM: Oh yeah. There’s a 20, 25 minute song. It’s a full cast song about Texts.com.
KD: It’s an inspiration.
LP: It’s crucial to developing the plot of the story. We wouldn’t get to the climax without Texts.com.
A: Describe the process of writing the show.
NP: We got down to the wire, and then Keegan Dufty went off with 40 points in the fourth quarter. He skipped all of his classes for a week and wrote a 60-page draft.
SM: We had outlines that changed drastically. At one point it was about an underground prostitution, illegal bootleg DVD ring funded by a pimp who was Lord Farquaad. Fiona was the main prostitute.
LP: And then we thought about how we can’t have all our female characters be prostitutes. It was a big argument. It tore us apart.
SM: We had so many ideas. We had to cut it down, so it could be short.
NP: When this finally gets picked up by a Broadway agent, we will be able to have the extended version.
A: Is this a modern adaptation of “Shrek”?
KD: We’ve been saying is that this is a play for people who like “Shrek” but wish that everything about it was different. I remember talking to Nick and Sky and everybody and being like, “We’ve got such a funny group of friends. Why don’t we try to completely re-write the story in a ridiculous way.” So I would say it’s a ridiculous, sorry Argus, really fucked-up version. We wanted to make it twisted.
SM: I think our original goal was to have people walk out. We wanted to inspire some WeSpeaks against Second Stage funding student productions. Hopefully that dream is still alive.
LP: Hopefully someone is really offended.
KD: The original inspiration was figuratively us sitting in a room coming up with as many offensive jokes we could work into a play. And then eventually we realized 1. We needed to maintain a storyline and 2. Some stuff we couldn’t have in the play. I guess it is a real world adaptation of “Shrek.”
NP: There are many characters loosely based off of real characters of “Shrek.” The story line, the characters enter somewhat…
SM: (Interrupting) Do we want to reveal the central plot?
A: Are you being purposefully ambiguous about “Shrak”?
LP: Yeah, definitely. The only thing I can say is “Shrak” is not for babies. So if you have small children don’t come. Or people afraid of loud noises.
NP: If you’re squeamish, probably don’t show up.
KD: Slam poets shouldn’t come.
LP: I think shock humor is the biggest thing, so we can’t reveal too much.
NP: The plot is a journey much like the story of “Shrek.” It’s about love and it’s about family…
NP: Sex, violence, love…
NP: Rock and roll.
LP: Slam poetry.
NP: The moon.
KD: The future.
LP: The corrupt prison system and how inefficient it is.
KD: Our country’s prison system is just a shame.
NP: It’s a social commentary as much as it is a humorous piece. We want people to leave and we want to inspire [them].
KP: We want them to be sick but also like…
[Everyone laughs in agreement.]
NP: We don’t want to give too much away too soon.
A: You seem to have a wide variety of people in your cast; some people have a lot of theater experience, while others have no theater experience. What has it been like working with that cast dynamic?
SM: Everyone is super talented. Even the people who have no theater experience are really impressive and awesome.
KD: I think that’s been the biggest wild card for me at least. We had this idea that started last semester and we somehow put it together. That’s shocking on its own. The biggest shocker is that there are 20-something people that are really into it, are really talented, are putting on this show, and are putting in the work for it. It’s been an awesome experience to just have people who really believe in it and are as psyched about it as we are.
A: Did you write all of the music in the show?
NP: It’s 100 percent original. Charlie Kaplan’s our music director. He’s super talented. He’s super funny.
SM: He’s a genius.
NP: Really just he would sit down at the piano and ten minutes later we’d have a song.
SM: Nick was on the phone with him once, and they were talking, and he was like, “We really need to work on Lord’s song. We gotta figure something out.” Charlie was just like, “Brain blast. Brain blast!” And just hangs up, and when he came to rehearsal he had a fully-written and composed song.
NP: He got the whole band together. He has arranged music for everyone. He really came through in the clutch.
LP: It definitely wouldn’t be a musical without Charlie.
KD: It would be a spoken play.
A: Why should people come see this show?
SM: No one knows what to expect.
NP: It’s the revolution of theater.
SM: Come and see something completely different than anything you’ve probably ever seen before.
A: Do you feel that this show is a reflection of your past four years?
SM: It’s definitely our magnum opus. We’ve all been working to this since freshman year.
LP: It’s actually all of our theses.
NP: It was time for us to do something screwed up.
KD: Yeah we’ve done little screwed up stuff that somewhat goes unnoticed. We yell in Pi all the time, but people who don’t go to Pi know that those are the kids who yell all the time and make absurd jokes in public. It was time for us to band together and show the world how fucked up we are.
SM: Every step of the way at Wesleyan, we have all individually and collectively attempted to do things thinking that Wesleyan would tell us not to. This was the final thing. Why don’t we try to put on a musical? And they let us.
NP: On a more sentimental note, it’s been a great way for all of us to hang out a lot in our last semester. We’re having a good time so we assume everyone will have a good time too.