The superheroes in the Majestic Theatre’s Adventures of a Comic Book Artist rendition don’t possess traditional superpowers — instead of flight and super strength, they boast mastery of speed, knock-out florals and incredible erasing abilities.
But, as a few cast members explained at the Majestic Theatre of Dramatic Art’s rehearsal studio last Tuesday evening, it’s not so much what your powers are, but how you use them that’s important.
Some of the actors, mostly girls ages 7 to 15, are fans of famous Hollywood heroes like Batman, the Fantastic Four and 7-year-old Kinsley Yatnan’s favorite, Black Widow from The Avengers. But you won’t find any of those heroes on stage at this show.
Unlike in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which the Majestic recently produced, or in Annie, which 12-year-old Brook Flanders recently performed in, the characters in Adventures of a Comic Book Artist aren’t well-known.
“It’s really different,” Flanders said. She plays Viola, the ditzy secretary at Wonder Comics. “In the other shows I’ve been in, they told you how to play the character. But with this, you can decide how to play your character, and here, there are some really different characters.”
She pointed to one of the play’s most pompous superheroes, Star Guy, who is very full of himself, constantly checking his hair and flexing his muscles, not unlike Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter series.
The play’s setting is at Wonder Comics and its protagonist, Stanley Leonardo Sappovitz, played by 14-year-old Jessica McKenzie, is an aspiring comic book artist. He works as a janitor at Wonder Comics and anxiously awaits the day his boss, D.C. Wunderman, will see his drawings and allow his work to come alive on the printed page.
And his drawings do come alive, but not in the way he expected; in an effort to revive the faltering company, Wunderman had ordered a set of magical pens that promise to bring to life any character drawn. The writers unwittingly create a supervillain named Doctor Shock Clock.
In response, Stanley creates his own superheroes with the magical pen to fight the villain: Star Guy, whose powerful charisma ray causes people to fall at his knees and beg for autographs; a super-fast (though intellectually slow) Triple Time; a flower-power hero named Blossom; Wombat Woman, whose burrowing skills compare to no other; and a hero named Eraser Man.
The set will be minimal; show director Becky Rush talked of plans to project comic book-like scenes for the backdrop of the show, and each of the principal characters has her own theme song.
Local comic book stores have been extremely supportive of the show, said Karen Bessette, development director at the Majestic Theatre.
“We did reach out to a handful [of comic book stores] to ask if they’d advertise in the playbill for this show at an affordable rate. A couple are supporting our production, including Merrymac Games and Comics and comic book artist Emily Druin of Eplis Comic,” Bessette wrote in an email. “They all were thrilled to see the kids doing a show with a comic book theme.”
The show has been a treat for Rush, too — she’s enjoyed seeing the kids embrace the creativity they’ve been given in their roles.
“The fact that nobody’s seen it [the play] allows us some freedom to do our own thing and not be confined by public perception,” Rush said. “It gives the kids an opportunity to really develop their own roles and take the characters really far. They can create their own versions of who they think the characters should be.”
The powers these heroes command are perhaps not your most sought-after ones — the cast said they’d prefer, in real life, telepathy, flight or invisibility — but the message of the play, Rush said, is a poignant one.
“I think the whole thing is great for kids,” Rush said. “It’s about finding your own power within you and embracing it.”
As seen in the March 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.