By: Max Mehran
On a bright, sunny afternoon that feels that summer is finally coming, I met with the wonderfully talented and multi-faceted Scott Humphrey. He takes on the roles of writer, producer, actor, marketing director, and many more for the world premiere The Detective, the Dame, and the Devil presented at the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival. A show he has been working on for three years, Scott couldn’t be more excited- and terrified – to see it finally hit the stage this summer.
The show is, in Scott’s words, “essentially a Film Noir parody.” He explains that a lot of people are familiar with the tropes of the genre, such as the monologu-ing detective, Venetian blinds, double-crossing, etc. The popularity of the genre motivated Scott to write a parody because, as he states, “[he] just wanted to turn [the audience’s] expectations around and have fun with this.”
Scott amusingly recalls the first thing people think when he tells them his show is a parody of Film Noir. “I often catch people rolling their eyes,” he adds, “because the style is often already a parody.” That being said, the reason why Scott decided to go ahead with this idea is the fun of playing off of these tropes with the intention to challenge the expectations of the audience. “It’s where comedy comes from, and people get a laugh at that,” he continues.
The show is structured in an interesting way. Scott explains that “the first part is a heart-boiled detective story played as straight as possible, but then the story is told twice more from the perspective of the other characters.” With this, Scott attempts to keep his audience on the edge of their seats while making them laugh as well. “I like to combine mystery and comedy,” he continues, “because they both function on the same premise: you don’t always know what’s going to happen next.”
The play, therefore, deals with how much your perception of a situation can influence its outcome. Scott tells us that “when you are watching a play, you are basically watching relationships between characters, so what I wanted to do was to create strong relationship between three different characters, but then depending on who is telling the story, the relationship might have a different hero and different villain.”
It has been a long time that Scott has been working on the show, and when the Fringe lottery picked out his name, things escalated quickly. “I wrote it originally as a one person show” he reveals, “composed of three monologues.” After a less-successful first reading, he realized there was still work to be done on the play. After he workshopped it further, the play became funnier, less heavy, and not as dark. Scott also added two new characters to his story. “About a year ago,” he explains, “I did a reading of the draft and I thought to myself, ‘this is in a good place, I think I want to go ahead and produce it’.” A little while later, his name was picked out from the Fringe lottery and all of the sudden his play was to be produced in front of a live audience.
“It is the kind of show I felt required a group with a particular kind of humor,” he tells me when I asked about how he chose his cast and production team. He wanted the cast and crew to be as familiar with the genre and the tropes as he and his audience were, because the play makes callbacks and a lot references to other films. “It’s a farce and a highbrow stuff at the same time,” he jokes. Casting the play was easy as he chose actors who he knew were strong and funny performers. While Scott contemplated the idea of being the director of the show, he chose to go with the scarier option and asked an outside perspective to take the reins. “I had the choice to appear in the thing I wrote and directed or to give the power away to a director, and I asked myself which one was scarier.” He decided to hire someone he hadn’t worked with before, and it seems that so far, it’s been a perfect match.
This is Scott’s first time as a producer, which can be rewarding when he gets to connect with other companies …but can also be stressful. He created The Detective, the Dame, and the Devil knowing what he was getting into. “Going back to what I conceptualized,” he tells us, “I conceived it as being as simple as possible.” He continues emphasizing that “every decision that we have been taking so far have been to make our lives as simple as possible- at least we are trying.” The play is still subject to changes as cues or dialogue can be added or removed if the team feels it doesn’t add to the whole show. “I think there is also a lot of fun in the fluidity that other artists bring to the text.”
While this isn’t Scott’s first time writing, The Detective, the Dame, and the Devil is his first attempt at writing a comedy. “I took myself too seriously before, and it is fun be able to indulge in the serious side, and be able to laugh after,” he explains. The Detective, the Dame, and the Devil is also his first full-length play being ever presented. I am curious to see how he feels about the whole ordeal, he answers quite honestly. “Let’s be real, I feel terrified,” he jokes, “but not because I think it’s going to go poorly, but because anytime you invest a lot of time and energy on something, you are telling people that you believe your work is worthwhile. And I do think people are going to get something out of it.”
I asked Scott how he feels about presenting his play at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. He tells me that the festival “is a great opportunity to take a risk because there is a lot of material out there and the audience knows that people are there to have a good time.” He also appreciates how being part of the festival draws new audiences to one’s work and starts conversation about theatre in or out of the festival.
At this moment in time, Scott is most looking forward to Fringe For All “because it’s going to be the moment where we get that charge of a live audience, your work, their interest, and everyone is just having a blast.” Scott and his team will also be around the festival spreading the word and trying to draw audience members in. They will also be handing out three oversized playing cards that, if someone manages to collect all three, offer a discount of two dollars on the ticket prize. With this marketing idea, he hopes to create a mini treasure hunt during the festival.
As we are wrapping up the interview, I have to ask Scott the question that was haunting me for the duration of the interview, ‘what is your favorite Film Noir?’ He takes a few seconds to answer, and then confidently tells us, “I am going to say The Maltese Falcon because it is so… standard and strange at the same time.” He continues saying that “people think of Film Noir as very serious, and in this film, while the leads are very witty, the dialogue is often very dry. I think those interpretations really are what drew me to do something in the first place.”
Thank you to Scott Humphrey for taking the time to talk to us about his upcoming show, The Detective, the Dame, and the Devil, “a Film Noir parody and a smart comedy with something for everybody.” Now start your hunting for the three playing cards and find your way to Theatre La Chapelle during the festival to catch the show!