‘The Intergalactic Nemsis’ to invade the Eccles Center | ParkRecord.com

‘The Intergalactic Nemsis’ to invade the Eccles Center

"The Intergalactic Nemesis," which will be performed at the Eccles Center on Saturday, Feb. 11, is like readers theatre on steroids, said writer and director Jason Neulander.

The audience will have the opportunity to hear and see three actors voice dozens of different characters in a story about Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Molly Sloan, her assistant Timmy Mendez and librarian Ben Wilcott and their efforts to try to foil an invasion of sludge monsters from the planet Zygon, while oversized comic-book panels are projected onto a screen.

In addition, the audience will see how potatoes and pillowcases come together to create a fight-scene sound effect.

"That’s a great way to describe it," he told The Park Record during a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas. "It’s like seeing an old radio show drama behind the scenes."

In the beginning, the production didn’t have the projections. In fact, it was small enough to be performed in a coffee house.

"The idea of the show was brought to me by a guy named Ray Colgan, who came up with the idea of a sci-fi radio play and for us to actually do it," Neulander said. "I was running a little theatre company called Salvage Vanguard Theatre and we developed and produced new plays. So, when Ray approached me with this idea, it seemed like a fun project to work on."

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The concept and production of the work touched Neulander’s film-loving inner child.

"I was seven when ‘Star Wars’ first came out and 11 when ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ came out, and to this day, those movies are hugely influential on my outlook of life, so, ‘Intergalactic Nemesis’ was a way for me to do ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Raiders’ with a budget of absolutely nothing," he said. "The audience members’ imagination would provide all the visual special effects."

Although the format of "The Intergalactic Nemesis" is modeled after a 1940s and 1950s radio show, Neulander had never heard one.

"I never listened to ‘The Shadow,’ ‘The Lone Ranger’ or ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ or anything like those before getting on into the project," he said. "However, I felt that I did instinctively understand the form, and it became an easy transition for me."

After Neulander and Colgan came up with an outline, they gathered some writers and went from there, Neulander said.

The writers would write for three days and he would cast the characters that evening.

"We would rehearse it the next day and then my friend Buzz Moran would create the sound effects that was basically done from things like utensils or other things he found around his home," Neulander said. "For a while the sound of someone getting punched was raw potatoes in a pillowcase dropped onto a hard surface."

The show debuted in the mid 1990s and it ended up being comprised of 10, 15-minute episodes.

The radio play grew in popularity to the point where we got invited a couple of years ago to take it to the 2,400-seat Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Neulander said.

"I felt the venue was way too big for the radio play and was about to turn down the offer when the idea of adding visuals hit me like a flash," he said. "I had been working with an artist named Tim Doyle to create comic-book version of the story, and I thought it would be cool to project the artwork and create a spectacle that would maybe fill the theatre."

The full-production of "The Intergalactic Nemesis" premiered in September, 2010.

Within a week, Neulander started getting requests to take the show on the road.

"I have done theatre for a long time, but I have never seen or heard a response like we have with this production," he said. "It’s totally effusive, positive reaction."

Still, Neulander is happy the production has caught the attention and the imagination of the public, especially because it’s not a play or a film, but a new theatre experience.

"It’s such a live show that in fact, every cue, including each of the 1,250 individual comic-book panels, is hand cued to sounds that are in the production, including the audience laughter," he said. "So, the audience becomes a participant of the performance creation."

When Park City Performing Arts Foundation executive director Teri Orr, called a few months ago, Neulander was thrilled.

"We are lucky to go to all these different places and rediscover our love for the country," he said.

The Park City Performing Arts Foundation will present "The Intergalactic Nemesis," a pairing of radio play and hand drawn, comic-style projections at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $18 to $65 and available at http://www.ecclescenter.org . Discount tickets available by calling (435) 655-3114.