Jason Neulander wanted to craft a story like the ones he'd grown up on, such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since he and his buddies didn't have a multimillion-dollar budget, they did the next best thing: They created The Intergalactic Nemesis, an epic for the radio, where the imagination could fill in where special effects would usually go.
"At the end of the day, it's about storytelling, no matter what the format is. It was fun exploring how to tell a story sonically, how to use sound effects, and how to make them," Neulander says. "At first, we just rummaged around the kitchen to find things. The sound of a train is still a box of mac and cheese being shaken."
That was 15 years ago. Since then, the Austin, Texas-based company has refined the original concept of The Intergalactic Nemesis and built it up as a stage show, complete with a projected graphic novel to go along with the spoken action.
"We were asked to perform it at a 2,400-seat theater, and I tried to envision a radio show in a hall that big," he says. "Then it hit me in a flash. We had been developing a comic-book version of the story. Why not project the comic-book art on a screen across the proscenium? Fifteen months later, we premiered it over two nights, and now we are on tour."
That tour lands at the Heights Theater tomorrow evening for a one-night-only performance.
The story unfolds like a pulp story from the 1930s. It is 1933. Can an intrepid reporter, her trusty sidekick, and a mysterious librarian save the Earth from an invasion of slug creatures from the planet Zygon?
Well, probably yes, but that's not the fun here. For the performers and audiences, it's a way to embrace an older style of storytelling that is free of much of the cynicism and crushing irony of modern adventures, no matter the format.
"I wrote the show to get back to the sense of being 12-years old. I push every entertainment button that worked for me then. I totally have a blast watching this production, regardless of anyone else's response. I feel like I'm 12 again," Neulander says.
That infectious sense of fun led to the current tour.
"Ten days after the live performance, I went to a booking event for the Midwest. My goal was to get five venues interested in doing the show. When I walked out three days later, I had more than 30 who were interested in booking the show. From that one conference, I was able to start booking this 32-date tour," Neulander says.
Interest goes beyond this tour, with discussions of a similar one in Australia, and, of course, sequels under way. "It's a one-of-a-kind show," Neulander says. "The artwork, when projected on the screen, looks beautiful. I think Minneapolis-ites are going to have a blast."