‘The Intergalactic Nemesis’ targets the Eccles Center
When Jason Neulander and his crew wrapped up "The Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth" at the Eccles Center last year, award-winning reporter Molly Sloan and her research assistant Timmy Mendez had saved the world from invading sludge monsters from the planet Zygon.
The show — which was a mash-up of a graphic novel reading, a radio show and live theatre — followed Sloan and Mendez through a sensory-pleasing production that showed the audience how to make sound effects with a pillow.
Sloan’s story continues when Neulander returns to the Eccles Center this Saturday with "The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book II — Robot Planet Rising."
The second installment, like all good science-fiction sequels, is a little darker than chapter one, Neulander said during a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas.
"Our goal was to make a Part II a little more complicated, and we also had to introduce new characters that people would fall in love with," he said.
Instead of sludge monsters, armies of giant, mechanical robots will invade the Earth.
While putting this story together, Neulander and his sound-effects master, Buzz Moran, realized that they needed to find other items to bring these monsters to life.
"One of these items gives off the sound of having an objects in a big open container," Neulander explained. "He’s got this rubber bin he uses that contains a handful of metal junk.
"It’s very lightweight, but when he shakes and bangs it together, it sounds like a huge, heaping mass of metal that is coming towards you and will crush you when it gets there," he said. "It is used for different things in the show."
The other objects were found at a second-hand shop.
"We have a robot army that surges through the city and we wanted to have the sounds of all the servos spinning," Neulander said. "So there are several blenders and mixers that we use to make those sounds.
"While those aren’t as simple as shaking up a box of uncooked macaroni and cheese, they are still something people at home can use if they wanted to make the sound of a marauding army."
Regardless of these new "toys," there are still a couple of sequences that were almost impossible to do live if it weren’t for Moran’s innovative thinking.
"There is a scene where Molly gets vacuumed into a giant robot recycling system that is quite dramatic and fast and hard from a sound-effect standpoint," Neulander said. "She gets sucked up and bounces off a couple of walls and then lands on this conveyer belt that is heading toward some giant mechanical jaws.
"It’s a great sequence, and you can imagine that the sound effects are an integral part of the story telling here, because there is no dialog," he said. "I don’t know if the audience knows how difficult it is to do, but it is."
Neulander took a long and winding road to write "Robot Planet Rising."
"We did the original ‘Intergalactic Nemesis’ as a seat-of-our-pants serial play in a coffee house in Downtown Austin in the 1990s," he remembered. "We recorded for cassette tape on a four-track recorder."
In early 2000, Neulander and his co-writer, Chad Nichols, revisited the story and rerecorded it digitally after an extensive material overhaul.
"That went so well and was so much fun, so we decided to do a sequel that was called ‘Return of the Intergalactic Nemesis’ in the summer of 2001," Neulander said. "After that, I let the project go and came back to do a third installment in 2005."
While creating Part Three, Neulander and his team raised the bar pertaining to the quality of the show.
"So, when we looked objectively at the first two, they were, by comparison, kind of bad," he said with a laugh. "I was so happy with the third one and that made me go back to the other two installments and do a total, top-to-bottom redo that we did in 2007 and 2008."
In 2010, Neulander listened to the CDs again nd realized it still wasn’t very good and decided to go back and do everything again.
"We wanted to make the new ‘Intergalactic’ to be compared to the old ‘Intergalactic’ as ‘Star Wars’ would be compared to the old ‘Flash Gordon’ serials," Neulander said.
So, Part II, which would end up being "Robot Planet Rising," turned into a two-year, intensive and extensive writing project.
"I think if half of a page of the original material had survived, I would be surprised," Neulander said. "We dropped an entire plot-moving device in the second half of the original story, and focused on character and character development.
"And the only thing that was important to us from the original sequel was a plot development that has become the beginning of ‘Robot Planet Rising,’" he said. "We jettisoned as much as we could, knowing the third entry would not change a bunch."
Wiping the slate clean was a daunting task, Neulander said.
"We hit a tipping point when we knew it was going to work and it was fun from there," he said. "I was kind of like hiking up a mountain to ski and then reaching the top and skiing down, as long as you don’t cause an avalanche."
So far, there are no plans to make an "Episode IV."
"Right now, I have no plans to do anything beyond Book III, but I would not rule it out," he said. "If it doesn’t happen, that’s OK, because all three stories can stand on their own. But if things turn out that we are able to do more, I would consider it."
"The Intergalactic Nemesis" live-action graphic novel returns to the Eccles Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., with a new adventure: "Book Two: Robot Planet Rising." The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $67 and available by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org or by calling (435) 655-3114.
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