It’s a comic! It’s a radio play! It’s an old-school adventure serial!
Actually, The Intergalactic Nemesis: Target Earth is all of that and more. Originally conceived as an audio experience, this tale of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Molly Sloan’s adventures criss-crossing the planet and even traveling to outer space in order to stop the invasion of the Sludge Monsters from the planet Zygon (yep) is coming to Tampa as a unique hybrid entertainment: the story is performed onstage by voice actors accompanied by a pianist and foley artist creating music and sound effects live in the moment, all of it staged in front of giant, vibrant comic-book panel-style artwork that follows the plot.
The show stops at the Straz for one night only this Thursday, and promises a visual and aural spectacle unlike anything else hitting the stage this season. CL spoke via telephone with co-creator, co-writer and artistic director Jason Neulander about how the whole unlikely thing came together.
The Intergalactic Nemesis began as radio-style audio experience, right?
[Laughs] That’s a very fancy way of putting it. Yeah, it was originally done as a radio drama, recorded on a four-track recorder to cassette tapes 20 years ago this year.
How did you become interested in adventure serials?
I wasn’t a radio serial listener, but the idea of an adventure serial was straight-up in my wheelhouse when my buddy Ray [Colgan, co-writer] came to me with the idea of making a sci-fi radio play. I was 7 years old when Star Wars came out, and I was 11 or 12 when Raiders [of the Lost Ark] came out. But also with my dad, I have a very clear memory of being 9 or 10, watching Flash Gordon on Saturday mornings with him. I always loved the kind of mid-20th century … American sci-fi short stories. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, any number of those guys.
Just a couple of years prior, I had founded this little theater Salvage Vanguard Theatre in Austin, and that company’s mission was to produce new plays that were sort of redefining what theater could be. Our first couple of years were produced in a rock club here in town called Electric Lounge. So the idea of trying this new old medium in an environment that made no sense, [recording it] in a coffee shop in Austin, made perfect sense to me, so I jumped on it, and here we are.