On ASTRO BOY and its Process at Company One Theatre
Thank you for attending the Boston premiere of ASTRO BOY AND THE GOD OF COMICS created and directed by Natsu Onoda Power. We are so glad to have you with us for this genre-bending, imaginative theatrical event. I’d like to take this moment to tell you a bit about the path the play has traversed so far, its development through the XX PlayLab, and its presence in Company One Theatre’s larger community engagement work.
After years of developing ASTRO BOY’s central material through other projects and workshops, Natsu premiered the full version of the play at Studio Theatre’s 2ndStage in Washington, DC, where it was named one of the top three theatre experiences of 2012 by The Washington Post. Jamie Gahlon, the Associate Director of HowlRound (in residence at Emerson College), was a member of Natsu’s original ensemble in DC, and helped connect Natsu with Company One Theatre in 2013. Knowing that Natsu wanted to revise and expand the play, we invited her to participate in the 2013-14 XX PlayLab—a program collaboratively run by the Boston Center for the Arts and Company One Theatre, dedicated to propelling works by women to the stage. Past Company One productions that have emerged from the XX PlayLab include HOOKMAN by Lauren Yee (2012), and SPLENDOR by Kirsten Greenidge (2013).
Over the course of this season, Natsu and her longtime DC collaborators—projection designer Jared Mezzocchi, and actor Clark Young—participated in three workshops with the ensemble of Boston actors, dramaturgs Ramona Ostrowski and myself, and Assistant Director/Creative Consultant Jamie Gahlon. During these weeks, the cast and creative team worked on skill building, text revision, and interactive projection models.
Of particular interest for this collaborative team was training a new group actors in the performance techniques that have been a hallmark of Nastu’s aesthetic since her days as a graduate student at Northwestern University—large scale collaborative illustration, interactive stage animation, and an interest in where the scientific and the human meet. Company One Theatre also significantly expanded our own capacity for these techniques, and for the kind of innovative multimedia technologies that are Jared Mezzocchi’s unique specialty.
Together with the BCA, we mounted a series of public events in November and March, culminating in the XX PlayLab Festival in early June, which provided ongoing access to the piece-in-process. Furthermore, the ASTRO BOY ensemble has had an unprecedented level of involvement in community events around the city, thanks to The Mabel Louise Riley Foundation, which funded Company One to create a boundary-busting engagement initiative called the C1 Street Team, led by youth organizers. Our artists have participated in ASTRO-themed workshops for youth and families at Cambridge River Festival, Anime Boston, UMass Boston, and Figment Boston, and will be connecting with community groups serving local teens during the run of the production. Together, Natsu and Company One are excited to further expand the reach of our mission—the creation of civically engaged artists, and the production of theatre with a social impact.
A development process of this type is an uncommon opportunity, and we’re thankful to have a partner like the BCA working jointly towards the support of groundbreaking artists. Workshops and readings are important steps, but it’s production where playwrights discover most clearly the world they’ve created. ASTRO BOY AND THE GOD OF COMICS, like much of Company One’s work, incorporates a sense of magic, and a structure that breaks traditional narrative forms. We’re excited for the surprises that await audiences as the story of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of the character Astro Boy, is revealed in reverse chronological order. We are so happy to share this event with the Boston community, and hope that you find it as thrilling as we do.
Ilana M. Brownstein, Director of New Work
A PDF of this letter can be downloaded by clicking HERE.