A Message from Our Fearless Leader
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Welcome to the Epic Universe!
This is a project grand in scope and ridiculous in ambition that I began working on over a year ago when I was asked to write an essay on how the Marvel Cinematic Universe was changing cinema.
“Ultimately,” I wrote, “What is, admittedly, a loving money grab, has also reminded us what movies have always been meant to do—give us a sense of community by creating a shared experience through story-telling. The folks at Disney and Marvel have figured out a way to break through the isolated-if-convenient Netflix syndrome by giving us content that has to be experienced as soon as possible and talked about immediately afterwards. It’s something we share with our families, friends, and total strangers. It requires us to expand our attention spans by asking us to remember things that happened years before, and still manages to give us standalone stories that can be appreciated all on their own. Whatever you may think of the execution of each film, the sheer audacity of the project itself is something to be celebrated.”
I sent in my essay and thought—
Huh. We could use some of that in theater.
Don’t head to the comments section just yet. I know playwrights have used recurring characters and multiple plays set in the same world before (Shakespeare, Wilson, etc.), but there was one obvious thing missing—
I’m fascinated by genres that seem to work on film but not onstage, and the comic book genre, for whatever reason, just never seems to translate (See: Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, or better yet, read the book about how it all went sour.)
I wanted to find out what a theatrical version of a superhero story could look like, and not just one, but a whole group of them.
That’s when I went back to the world of “American Strippers.” That play was a landmark show for Epic, and it presented all the ideas I felt I could explore over the course of a lot more new plays. It featured mythological heroes and characters from folklore, and it looked at how our fictional canon can sometimes become our new religion.
In “Lizzie Borden, Lizzie Borden,” we flip that question on its head. Here we’re asking how history becomes fiction, what happens when you base fiction on real events, and how far can you bend a narrative before it breaks?
It also looks at something the Greeks were very into—Destiny.
Can it be changed?
Can we change ourselves?
Can we rewrite our own story?
The plays that will eventually make up the Epic Universe (including next month’s “American Drag”) will keep going back to those questions. We're calling this first batch of plays--"Chapter One: Spin the Narrative."
Right now we’re living on the edge of a moment where we feel both powerless and energized—more able to spot the villains living among us than we’ve ever been, but not sure what to do about them, and recognizing the power of our own voices—the ability to spin our own narrative however we want.
For the first time, people who’ve never been in control have finally taken the reins of their own story—so the question is—
What happens now?
Lizzie Borden might be an interesting choice for our first foray into world-building, and after you see the play, you might not view her and our other main heroine as "superheroes," but whereas scaling tall buildings and flying through the air may be impressive, something about breaking through the boundaries of your own confined fate seems way more heroic to me.
And finally, if you’re wondering why I haven’t used this message to tell you more about what exactly happens in the first part of our story, well…there’s a reason for that.
After all, what could be more theatrical than a few…surprises?
If there’s one thing I can promise you about what’s to come, it’s that there are going to be plenty of those, so—