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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

"Dr. Horrible" Play at Touchstone Theatre - Artsquest.tumblr.com Interview

Wednesday 29 September 2010, by Webmaster

Prepare to have your mind blown… If you know not of the epic-musical-theater-awesomeness that is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, that’s the best advice I can give.

In 2008, amidst the writer’s strike, Joss Whedon, along with Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, took the interwebs by storm, with an epic, 3-part, musical mini-series.

It chronicled the loveable, but devious, Dr. Horrible’s (NPH) quest to simultaneously achieve entrance into the Evil League of Evil whilst earning the affections of his secret crush Penny (Day).

Now in 2010, local community theater group of awesomeness, Touchstone Theatre, is bring these hilarious webisodes to the small stage, as part of Touchstone’s 30th Anniversary Season.

Two of the minds behind what may be the show’s first professional, American production, Christopher Storr and James P. Jordan of Touchstone, were kind enough to give us the story behind the story.

Here’s part one of my interview with them, which I’m lovingly calling “Dr Horrible comes to Bethlehem”…

Q) It’s Touchstone’s 30th Anniversary season… how did Joss Whedon’s writer’s strike-spawned internet sensation get into mix?

CS: It’s easy for theatres to fall into habits—their programs are built to suit both the theatre’s audiences and artists, which is great, but it can lead to a situation where everyone gets locked into a routine. My sense is that in some way, this show is saying “yeah—we’ve been around for thirty years, but we’re still growing and changing and keeping things fresh.” The Pan Show last season really surprised a lot of people and they loved it. I think Dr. Horrible builds on a broader audience that began to be developed last season. Like Pan, Dr. Horrible is a fun, funny musical that has deeper darker themes if you take the time to let them register.

Jp: Seeds are planted and eventually grow into the plants that they were destined to be. Two seasons ago, we brought Emma Chong in as an Ensemble Apprentice. Now as an Ensemble Associate Emma co-stars in this production as Penny, (Horrible’s love interest). In those two years in between, Emma and I have come to make up a new “Geek” element of Touchstone (Emma’s actually the bigger Geek), sharing a love of Sci-Fi and online role playing games. I hadn’t heard of Dr. Horrible, but one day Emma came in my office, told me about it and forwarded me the website address where I could watch it. Lisa (Touchstone’s Producing Director and my wife) and I went home that night, watched it and immediately fell in love (with the Dr. Horrible, we were already in love with each other). Shortly there after Bill (Touchstone Co-Founder) caught wind of the internet sensation, watched and fell in love (again with Horrible as he’s happily married). Then simply one day Lisa suggested we put it in as part of our next season, the Ensemble voted on it and here we are in the midst of producing what appears to be the first professional American production.

Q) For the un-initiated… what can we expect from a Touchstone version of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog?

CS: The Touchstone stamp will be most evident in the way we’ve approached casting. A company of seven actors will perform more than twenty roles. Also, an eighteen-foot stage will be turned into the same number of locations. To accomplish these feats, as artists, we will use our creative powers, and as the audience, people will use the power of their imagination. That seems like the hallmark of Touchstone theatricality to me.

Jp: In one sense it’s very cutting edge for us to be taking on this work but as far as the Touchstone stamp, we are fully equipped. Exceptional actor driven theatre is always the hallmark of any Touchstone show and it’s always a boon to such work having an exceptional director. Christopher has been collaborating with Touchstone for the last two years, making his Touchstone directorial debut with last years “The Pan Show”, which he also co-wrote. We as a producing entity have found a great partner who understands what we want Touchstone to be as well as being a patient and wise director. Directing an ensemble theatre company production is not for the weak at heart, but that same ensemble creative process is what makes Touchstone’s work so rich. All voices working toward and forming a cohesive aesthetic.

Q) How does an internet mini-series translate on the stage?

CS: We’re living in a new age. The arts are increasingly dynamic in their integration of media. Material is coming to the stage from all directions and all media as well. The original piece on the internet was already highly theatrical. The characters (larger than life to begin with) and the songs feel at home on the stage. As production designers, Jp and I have found creative solutions to technical challenges like super quick changes in locale—natural in a more cinematic form, but difficult on stage. We’ve also found ways of integrating technology into our production—so as not to lose the “blog” component of the piece. Through it all, we are striving to be true to the spirit of the original. I think die-hard Dr. Horrible fans will be pleased.

Jp: Two possibly conflicting words, inspiration and imitation. The Comic-Con fan boys and girls will want to be fed, there will be certain things they will not be denied and if they are…well, it may not be pretty. There are certain iconic moments through out the movie that need to be represented in some way, from certain larger cinematic moments to the slightest nuance in an actor’s performance. The challenge is capturing those moments while at the same time owning them both as performers and in the larger sense of a cohesive production.

Part two of my interview with the lads from Touchstone is coming tomorrow… same Bat time, same Bat channel… well, here on ArtsQuest: The Blog, at least.