Science fiction is defined by pushing boundaries–of inner and outer space, as well as time and imagination—which is what makes it great for the theater, according to actor David Dean Bottrell. “Stage is such a unique medium,” he states in email, “because the audience is a participant in the proceedings.”
Bottrell aims to bring several fantastic stories to a real-time audience this spring in Los Angeles, at a festival of science fiction one-act plays called Sci-Fest.
Hundreds of supporters have pledged $72,895 (at this writing) toward Sci-Fest’s ultimate goal of raising $80,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
By professional theatrical standards it’s a modest budget, with most of the money allocated to renting a theater and creating the sets, lighting, special effects, and costumes. “To our knowledge, a sci-fi short play festival has never been done before,” states Bottrell. “It just seemed like a challenge worth taking.”
In response to online calls for entries, the fest received over 400 submissions from playwrights around the world, according to Bottrell. The final line-up includes seven original scripts, plus an adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s short fiction “The Wife’s Story,” and a revival of Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope,” about a routine mission gone very wrong for seven astronauts stranded in space. Bottrell notes that Bradbury got there about 50 years before 2013’s Oscar-nominated “Gravity.”
According to Sci-Fest’s online materials, over a dozen actors with credits from science fiction and horror TV shows will appear in the productions. L. Scott Caldwell, a Tony-award winning actor best known to genre fans as Rose from “Lost,” will take the lead in the Le Guin play. Others include Julie McNiven, who played Anna in “Supernatural”; and Armin Shimerman, who played Quark in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and Principal Snyder in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” So will Dean Haglund, an actor best known as conspiracy theory enthusiast Langly in “The X-Files,” who is also listed on the fest’s advisory board, along with genre icons like Nichelle Nichols and Wil Wheaton, and Jason Weisberger, the publisher of mega-blog BoingBoing.
Science fiction on stage isn’t actually such a crazy undertaking: TV and movie classics like “The Twilight Zone,” “The X-Files,” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” grab and hold our attention (sometimes over decades of re-viewing) thanks to their big ideas and great characters, realized via good writing, directing, and acting, and less because of flashy special effects. So do recent cult science fiction film hits like “Pi,” “Primer,” and “Moon.”
More pragmatically, with thousands of people turning out for the annual ComicCon geekfests around the country, including many in the costumes of their favorite science fiction, fantasy, horror, anime, and video game characters, it’s possible that Sci-Fest is catching a wave. “We think the growth potential for this festival is huge,” says Bottrell. “We hope that this is the first of many Sci-Fests to come.”
The fest’s Kickstarter campaign ends this Friday, February 28.