500 Superheroes Hit the Stage at the Artists’ Exchange
Opening tonight, Epic Theatre Company’s sixth annual Summer Spectacular Show — theme: introspective superheroes — is bigger than ever.
On the intimate, dark stage at the Artists’ Exchange at Rolfe Square in Cranston, twenty superheroes are illuminated under a spotlight. Each is called to save the world from alien invaders, and each explains their powers and weaknesses to the audience, the logistics and limits of possessing superhuman qualities.
Onstage tonight through July 26, We Might Be Heroes is the Epic Theatre Company’s annual Summer Spectacular Show, and it’s the brainchild of artistic director and playwright, Kevin Broccoli. With this year’s cast surpassing 500, Broccoli’s Summer Spectacular Shows have grown exponentially over the past six years.
“I had been working on monologue shows across the state, but there wasn’t a lot of notice,” he says. “I had the month of July free in 2009, so I thought I’d create monologues and anyone who wanted to could join. That first summer we had eighty-six people and every year since then there is a new theme or central idea and more people join.”
Every year, monologues are linked to the theme of the play, this year’s being the fantastical story of an impending alien invasion and the government’s plea for salvation by the superheroes among them. “I went with it because there are a lot of superpowers that are useless in that situation, like invisibility,” Broccoli says.
Besides allowing for questions of what heroism is and pondering the role of superpowers, the theme also lent itself nicely to the gargantuan cast. “Every year I think about a theme, and, like taffy, it needs to pull a lot of different ways with so many monologues…. One year I thought I’d do a mystery, but you can’t pull a mystery 150 ways without going crazy,” he says.
Superhero stories are also hot ticket items with the rise of Marvel’s Avengers and other blockbuster films. Broccoli’s monologues, however, will be less POW! and more introspective glimpses into the complex souls of men and women with outward bravado. Every performance has a different cast of actors out of the 500, providing a mixed bag for each audience.
One character is a woman who can fly, but finds out she is pregnant and now wonders if she should use her powers to combat the aliens. Then there is a man who, like the Hulk, blows into huge powerful proportions when provoked. But unlike the Hulk, who has the magical ability to retain his pants when all his other clothes explode, this man has no such luck; he’s completely naked upon transformation. He questions whether it is worth it to expose himself and risk offending the masses or go au natural for the common good.
From flight to Hulk-ification, you’ll meet a variety of superheroes each night, some serious, others comical. You’ll also see an array of actors — professionals, amateurs and even people who simply want to try their hand onstage. “People call and say ‘my seventy-year-old mom would like to do it’…we have one woman this year with her two grandkids. It’s a real community play,” Broccoli says.
The plot parallels the idea behind the Summer Spectacular Show: A call goes out and everyday people — our heroes — respond to the call. At the end of the day, the actors will have not only learned their lines, but learned about their abilities. This is what Broccoli likes so much about having a vast cast of performers from all walks of life.
“It’s truly as inclusive as you can get in theater,” he says. “The closest thing is a third grade play when a teacher puts everyone in it. I love the positive energy, seeing people get a laugh or having a really dramatic moment. I love being in Rhode Island — it’s amazing that in Rhode Island we can do a show like this and showcase local talent.”
We Might Be Heroes is onstage at the Artists' Exchange, 50 Rolfe Sq., Cranston, July 10 through July 26. Tickets are $15. Visit artists-exchange.org or call 401-490-9475 for more information.