An Evening of Steampunk & Robot Theatre

My latest short play was produced in An Evening of Steampunk & Robot Theatre at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth, NH, from September 24–October 10, which means I’ve had two short plays produced in one year—not bad.

Producer-director-writer-actor-teacher John Herman created and organized the project, and coordinated for all the proceeds to be donated to three charities: 2020 VisionQuest (in support of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the NH Association for the Blind), A Safe Place, and the Newmarket Heritage & Cultural Center. A total of $3,000 was raised, doubling the expectation, thanks to the success of the project and audience turnout. The show was performed nine times across three weekends and the turnout success was due to word-of-mouth and nice reviews from the Portland Phoenix and the Portsmouth Herald, who titled their piece “Steampunk offers smart scripts, strong performances”.

I didn’t know much about the Steampunk genre prior to submitting my script. I had read John’s call for writers posted on his website and was curious if I could write a short play in a genre I wasn’t familiar with. Apparently I can, since of the 17 plays that were submitted, mine was one of the nine plays to be accepted for performance. Borrowing a Steampunk anthology from the library helped, as did attending the playwriting workshop that John held two weeks prior to the submission deadline.

John created the project as a collaborative one, bringing in artists and musicians to contribute their work around the plays. The project was produced with a creative commons license and all the work is available on his website. If other artists want to keep creating work around these plays, they’re free to do so, which means that my play, Seven Sisters, may have an eternal creative life on the internet.

After I found out that my play was selected for performance, John announced a call for actors which meant that Shawn was able to get involved as well. He was originally cast in three of the nine plays, but after other actors had to drop out he wound up as a replacement in two more plays, one of them being mine. With only one week to memorize and rehearse my play, while simultaneously rehearsing four other plays, he delivered a great pinch-hitting performance.

I had to deliver a pinch-hitting performance as well, since John also served as the lighting and sound technician in the booth but couldn’t attend one of the performances due to a previous commitment, so asked me to step in for him. I hadn’t run a lighting board in 24 years but it went well enough—in his absence the actors and audience had adequate lights and sound with me at the controls. Not perfect, but considering the rust on my board fingers, not too bad.

The Attic Bits served as musical accompaniment, providing pre-show music during each performance as well as musical interludes between each play. Audiences really responded to them, as well as the other special guest musicians that appeared with them across the nine performances.

A big shout-out needs to go to Sean O’Connell who built the set and every prop used across the nine plays, including the robot.

Here is a promotional photo of my play that was taken during the dress rehearsal and then e-distributed:

Seven Sisters by Margaret McAleese (Photo © John Herman) Left to right: Shawn Crapo, Laura Thomas, Jasmin Hunter

Here are a series of photos taken during the final performance matinee by cast member and photographer P.T. Sullivan:

Here is a draft illustration of Seven Sisters by artist Stephen Bobbett that didn’t make the final project:

Here are my photos taken across the three weekends.

Here is a short video from opening night, post-performance, where we found out that the robot who appeared in the final play was considered a rock star by the audience. After opening night, the robot was instructed to stay on stage after the curtain call to pose for photos with audience members (Attic Bits performing in the video):

Here is a longer video of behind-the-scenes footage from the night I worked in the booth alongside John, learning the lighting and sound cues for the next night’s performance. You’ll hear and/or see snippets of two of the nine plays, as well as Shawn’s kick-ass impersonation of Sean Connery:

And finally—I’m now done with Steampunk. I wasn’t familiar with it, then it brought me some success, consumed my time, and now it’s over. I can’t say that I developed a keen interest for the genre, even though I’m proud of my play and it was fun spending a few months with the other artists.

I made new and lasting friends during the project, but I’m hanging up the Steampunk goggles for this lifetime.

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