Action/Adventure Theatre to host serial stage space comedy

They touched down on the red planet in the year 2024. There were four of them: Steve, Tabitha, Marritt and Ryan. These are the names of the colonists, the original four who were brave (or crazy) enough to take a one-way trip to Mars. They settled there. Their aim: to survive, to discover and maybe even grow a little in the process.

They have been on the red planet for two years, five days, 33 minutes and 27, 28, 29, 30 seconds.

This is the situation in which the characters of Mars One, a new stage serial comedy, find themselves. The series is being put on by Action/Adventure Theatre, nestled in a small building on Southeast Clinton Street.

Mars One premiered on Oct. 16 and will run through Nov. 9. The play will consist of four episodes. The season pass costs $40.

“Serial comedy is a super unique way of doing theater. It is a combination of improv with structure,” said Katie Michels, who plays Marritt Friedricksen.

In serial comedy the play follows a story line, and like any other play, there are certain key points and plot twists and turns that are set in stone. But along the way any number of things could transpire, changing small parts of the production on the fly. Anything can (and will) happen.

For example, although Mars One is technically not a musical—no chorus line is included in the script—some of the actors do like to sing.

And in light of the structure of the play being somewhat improvisational, and song having not been forsworn, if the muse so strikes, you might just find one or more of the characters breaking into song. Such is the nature of improvisation.

Off world

Mars One is based upon the proposed Mars One mission that plans to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. The project was spearheaded by Bas Lansdorp and Arno Wielders, the former a Dutch entrepreneur and the latter an accomplished scientist, both from the Netherlands.

Action/Adventure Theatre was inspired by this concept. Nick Fenster, the production’s director, took it and turned the theme into a pilot with
a story line.

“I am a huge fan of this model because it enables you to build a following for your character that’s harder to do in a single play,” Fenster said. “We are trying not to get lost in the world of sci-fi. It is going to be about the characters and the relationships they build with each other. It is going to be a world that is really, thoroughly lived in. It makes for a very rich experience.”

The premise might sound simple, but the production’s secrets run deep. Fenster could not reveal a full list of characters. One he specifically avoided naming.

“I can’t say,” Fenster said. “It’s a bit of a surprise.”

Prime directive

This comedy is not just for laughs.

“I worked to push them in a darker direction,” Fenster said. Over the course of the evening fantastical themes will be explored: Science fiction, mystery and fantasy will mingle.

One aspect of serial theatre is that the characters become so familiar that the viewer feels like they know them personally, going beyond simply observing.

“Many people who see me on the street, out and about, still yell ‘Hey, Hambone,’” said Fenster.

Fenster played a character named Hambone in Fall of the Band, which ran for two seasons. Though he hasn’t stepped into that role in years, its memory still lingers with audience members.

Fenster and Noah Dunham, promotions and marketing director at the theatre, both look forward to sharing Mars One and more serial comedy with a wide audience. Many of their shows sell out, but there is always a chance for a new crowd to get in on the action.

The cast facilitates new audience members by presenting a repeat performance of the previous episode, along with a performance of the new episode, each weekend during the run of the series.

One giant leap

Bringing the Mars One production to the public started last December, when there was a call for written proposals for a new play for the Action/Adventure Theatre.

Fenster’s idea was selected, along with four other finalists. They all came to present their submissions in person and, following that, Fenster’s was chosen. The rest was written in the stars.

Many people who were able to see the pilot run in the very beginning have now been waiting all summer to see what happens next.
“I specifically try to keep my nose out of it,” Dunham said, who often doesn’t stay for the rehearsals.

Dunham said he wants to be able to experience the next episode fresh and for the first time, like all the other people in the audience. He wants to be surprised.

If the Mars One dress rehearsal was any indication, it is safe to say that ticket holders are in for a number of surprises, and a bit of mayhem.

Watch the official trailer:

Mars One | Fruit Loops from Lucas Welsh on Vimeo.