The road to stage czardom
In the subterranean world of Atomberg, noble gases face a disturbance in their realm when carbon dioxide molecules (COO) invade from above, in the TownSquare Players Phoenix Workshop production of “Red Glow Czar.” The situation becomes more complex when Hal, an entrepreneurial halogen atom, creates a business involving the COO molecules. Romance, comedy and complications follow.
Written in 2008 by Janie Harrison, Lockport, and Susan Handelsman, Woodstock, “Red Glow Czar” is the second Phoenix Workshop since the TSP first introduced the program in 2004.
The Phoenix Workshop was created as a way to give new artists and upcoming directors an opportunity to showcase their talents.
Director Betsy Stemple said she believes “Red Glow Czar” is one of the most promising up-and-coming shows and is bound to resonate with a lot more people than the playwrights originally expected. Stemple had so much confidence in the play she believed it definitely needed someone with stage directing and music directing experience to take it on and was more than happy to oversee it herself.
“It is a wonderful [play], very clever,” she said. It’s the only unique show I’ve seen come out of anywhere in years. It’s absolutely original from the ground up.”
The idea for the musical came after Handelsman started imagining the gases she’d learned about in chemistry courses taking on human characteristics. She mentioned her ideas to her sister-in-law, Harrison, and coerced her into becoming co-author on the story.
“I looked at it as a challenge. Susan threw down the gauntlet,” said Harrison.
Though both have some experience writing, the two women said they went out and read up on musical theater.
“We had to get all the dummies/idiots’ books for musical composition,” said Harrison.
Handelsman said she met Stemple while volunteering backstage for TSP and, then, submitted their piece for the Phoenix Workshop.
“She championed us as one of the submissions,” said Handelsman.
The two playwrights said they are very grateful for the chance to bring their play to life and are excited about what the future may hold.
“It’s a story that has a happy message. It points out all of our similarities. We’re all made of the same components,” said Handelsman.
The musical will feature 25 songs and a combination of 23 experienced and inexperienced actors as well as up-and-coming producers.
Though rehearsals have been challenging with the different levels of talent, Stemple has faith in the cast and what they’ll present.
“People knew this story was going to go somewhere … I really believe this show will go beyond this realm and hope someone who can produce professionally will bring it to the next level,” she said.
“There’s a lot of chemistry in this cast [pun intended].”
Actor Tim Vance, who has worked at the Woodstock Opera House since 2008 and plays the lead Hal (Halogen), is happy to take on his second TSP production.
“[This story] is such a cool idea,” he said. “Taking atoms and giving them human characteristics.
There are a lot of quirky science jokes, and it’s really fun. It’s a privilege to play such a role.”
“It is so clever, so funny, and a chance to see something new by local people,” said Carrie MacDonald, who stars as Oxygen.
Co-producer Kelly Waterman, who shares duties with Megan Marshall, is a first-time producer for TSP and is excited about this next workshop.
“It’s so cool to be involved with something from the ground up – something new, unique that takes science and musical theater and brings them together … it is brilliant and funny,” Waterman said.
“No one has ever done a musical theater about science.”
Though tickets are free to the work-in-progress production, all involved hope to see the show eventually staged with people paying for tickets. Stemple said people can look forward to a performance with all the “bells and whistles” sometime in the near future.
“Red Glow Czar” performances will be at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at Woodstock North High School, 3000 Raffel Road. A limited number of free invitations will be available to the public.
For reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include name, preferred date of attendance and number of attendees.
The TSP Phoenix Workshop accepts submissions year-round from aspiring theater artists.