The Hippo


Mar 21, 2019








Cast and crew members at a rehearsal for Project Zero. Courtesy photo.

See Project Zero

Where: Adams Memorial Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry
When: Thursday, July 10, at 7 p.m.; Friday, July 11, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, July 12, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Admission: $15, two for $20
For more: Check out their Facebook page; search “Project Zero: A Night of Original One-Acts.” Information is also available at

Heroes onstage
New company, new theater

By Kelly Sennott

 If you’re a recent theater grad who doesn’t have the time or financial stability for an unpaid internship, there aren’t a lot of options — particularly if you want your play produced or if you want to sit in the director’s seat. So, University of New Hampshire 2013 grad Dan Pelletier decided to take matters into his own hands. 

Pelletier is the founding member of a new theater group in Southern New Hampshire called the Cue Zero Theatre Company, whose inaugural production, Project Zero, takes the stage for the first time on Thursday, July 10. It will contain two hero-themed original one-acts, Future Endeavors, written and directed by Pelletier, and We Could Be Heroes, written and directed by Joe Nelson. They’ll be performed back-to-back, July 10 through July 12, at the Derry Opera House.
Pelletier, an Auburn native and Pinkerton Academy grad, ultimately decided on this course while driving to a lighting design rehearsal for Taming of the Shrew at UNH in Durham last fall, which he did as a favor for the director.
“I decided that, before my next birthday — which is coming up in July — I wanted to direct an original piece. I started researching the best ways to get that done, and that was to start my own company,” Pelletier said.
He stocked up on books and took advice from local companies like the Windham Actors Guild and theatre KAPOW!, whose monthly open training session he often attends. He gathered his theater friends from school, put out open calls and wrote press releases for the company’s auditions and upcoming performances. He pulled in a few UNH grads, including Nelson and Danielle Pancoast, who works as co-producer, set/costume designer and stage manager. Right now, the cast and crew numbers total 15, and they have been working diligently at rehearsals in his basement.
“There’s this old saying that if opportunity doesn’t knock, make a door. Throughout our schooling at UNH, every professor said you’re going to have to start with your own work to break out,” Nelson said in a phone interview. “You’re going to have to make your own opportunity. It’s something that’s stuck with me. … And I think new works are really what the theater scene in New Hampshire needs right now.”
Future Endeavors is about a small-town wrestler named Kyle Jordan making his way to the big leagues. Pelletier wrote it as part of his senior capstone project.
It wasn’t hard to create the character; if you know pro wrestling, then you probably know it’s more a performance than it is a sport. So in a way, Pelletier and the cast members relate very well to the character.
“When I looked at the script, I saw a lot of parallels between myself and Kyle Jordan,” said Nate Shaw, a Lowell resident who plays the lead role. “It’s easy to become absorbed and really get into the character.”
Nelson’s is a one-man show, to be performed by his good friend (also a recent UNH grad) James Fay. He wrote it last winter. The scene is of a kid living in a “nerd cave” in his parents’ basement. (Think superhero shrines.)
“It’s a one-person show, essentially a ‘nerd’ sharing with the non-nerd world what it means to be part of this demographic, the triumphs and struggles one would come upon while reading comic books and playing video games,” Nelson said. 
It’s a lot of work, building a new theater company from the ground up. First there’s the job of finding a location, which Pelletier secured with a pretty successful indiegogo campaign. Then there’s publicity.
“You can have the best show in the world, but if people don’t know about it, they won’t show up,” Nelson said. “You don’t have the name recognition that other organizations in the area might already have.”
But there’s also a wonderful excitement to a new company and a new theater. 
“In that mindset, we can bend  and create something that’s completely new for us,” Nelson said. “If somebody’s seen Hamlet six times, it’s uncertain to how the seventh time will be any different. With a new play going on, you have no excuse  not to check it out.”
Pelletier doesn’t expect to make a lot of money with the inaugural show; he said he’d be happy just to break even. But of course, he hopes this first performance will create opportunity for future shows this year.
“It will be a phenomenal learning experience, if nothing else,” Pelletier said. 
As seen in the July 3, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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