Space, as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk never tired of telling us, is the “final frontier.”

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This article was published 8/5/2019 (1110 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Space, as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk never tired of telling us, is the "final frontier."

THEATRE PREVIEW

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Red Earth
● A One Trunk Theatre production presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba
● A collaboration led by Andraea Sartison and GMB Chomichuk; script by Rick Chafe and Kristian Jordan
● Prairie Theatre Exchange
● To May 18
● Tickets: $25-$30 at www.brownpapertickets.com

It certainly remains a largely unexplored undiscovered country when it comes to theatre. It seems at some point, the theatre gods threw up their collective hands and conceded that the primary delivery systems for science fiction would be books, film, television or graphic novels.

That in itself renders the play Red Earth an exciting proposition. Not only does it put a sci-fi story on the stage, it does so in conjunction with another prominent genre interpreter: the graphic novel.

Collaborators GMB Chomichuk (left) and Andraea Sartison on the set of Red Earth. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Collaborators GMB Chomichuk (left) and Andraea Sartison on the set of Red Earth. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

With the new play Red Earth, One Trunk Theatre is attempting a science-fiction story incorporating of Mars and astronauts and the end of the world. At the same time, the play is synced with the release of a graphic novel iteration by Winnipeg comics artist and writer GMB Chomichuk.

Chomichuk, 42, got on the phone while on the road at the Calgary Expo plugging his latest graphic novel Apocrypha: The Legend of Babymetal, among other things. He worked with One Trunk Theatre’s artistic producer Andraea Sartison before.

"And we got on so well that we looked for a project that we could do together," Chomichik says. "And that’s how Red Earth started."

Chomichuk was no stranger to the world of theatre. In fact, he taught drama, as well as English, art and psychology at St. James Collegiate a few years back, before he opted to throw himself in comics full-time.

Improvements in projection technology help science fiction become a theatrical reality in Red Earth. (Kristian Jordan)

Improvements in projection technology help science fiction become a theatrical reality in Red Earth. (Kristian Jordan)

"Good science fiction, at its heart, has what good theatre has at its heart, which is a character drama," says Chomichuk. "It’s about people being put in high-stakes situations and then responding to them.

"And a good bit of science fiction really isn’t talking about the future. It’s talking about present day. which is what good theatre does.

"So with us, it may seem like a strange marriage, but to me, it’s just a human drama that happens to take place on Mars."

Sartison, who also directs this show, says the collaboration with Chomichuk has extended almost five years, although she acknowledges she has been reluctant to call herself a science-fiction fan in that span.

Dutchess Cayetano and Gwendolyn Collins in Red Earth. (Kristian Jordan)

Dutchess Cayetano and Gwendolyn Collins in Red Earth. (Kristian Jordan)

"I was really interested in this question that was becoming less science fiction and more reality: Will human beings move to Mars in our lifetime?" she says.

"I was interested in that as a personal question and as a theatrical question," she says, adding science fiction does what good theatre does. "It deals with the extremes of what humanity can go through, whether that takes the form of a broken relationship or are we going to continue to exist as a species?

"So in that way, I think science fiction and theatre are very similar because it’s a question of who we are in the world and what are the extreme possibilities we can encounter as people," she says. "That’s what drew me into creating a story about humans flying to Mars, and through that, I think I’ve become a bit more of a fan of science fiction."

Sartison acknowledges leaps in projection technology allow for expanded visual vistas on a stage that can take an audience beyond the drawing rooms and castle chambers where so much theatre has been mired.

GMB Chomichuk flips through the graphic novel that audience members get at the production. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

GMB Chomichuk flips through the graphic novel that audience members get at the production. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I wondered what would be our way in, esthetically, in this show," she says. "It couldn’t be be a regular old play where we explore Mars. It’s can’t be a one-set kitchen-sink event."

As it happens, Sartison worked on the recent stage adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which played at Manitoba Theatre for Young People earlier this year. She knew Red Earth would benefit from projection technology.

"Comics illustration and projection are things that can change 100 times in the course of an hour, and transport us from location to location."

The change-up in subject matter and execution leaves Chomichuk optimistic that the show might attract younger audiences.

"Traditionally, in the last 100 years or so, theatre has focused on the same kinds of audiences," he says. "And I hope Red Earth will attract a broader spectrum of people.

"We love theatre and we hope more people will come and experience theatre in all types," he says. "This definitely has appeal to the younger folks we’ve told about it."

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

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Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.