The iDiOM Theater is known for its inventive, often thought-provoking, productions of original and established plays.
So now, a kids’ production?
“Ded Reckoning,” opening Thursday, April 9, and showing through April 19, wasn’t intended to be a “family” production. And it does deal with some heavy themes, such as belonging, home, family, self-worth, and purpose. But the script formed itself in a way that left it gentler than a lot of other productions at iDiOM.
The collaborators, Kamarie Chapman and Spencer Willows, worked on their own through the weeks of development, and would meet once a week to recalibrate. Often, they would send emails and work online, creating the storyline together.
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Willows worked on the music and lyrics and Chapman worked on the dialogue. Changes to one inevitably lead to changes in the other.
“The characters formed themselves as the play was being written,” says Chapman, an adjunct faculty member in Western Washington University’s theater and dance department who has worked with iDiOM on and off as a playwright and actor since 2003.
Willows has played with various Bellingham musicians for 20-plus years, including the Quaalude County Country Band, Memory Layne, and Cherry Blossom Family Delivery, and he DJs under the name PhDJ, both live and on kvwv.org.
Chapman and Willows worked together and wrote four 10-minute musicals at two of last year’s “48-Hour Theater Festivals” at iDiOM.
“Ded Reckoning” is a musical-theater production told in song and dialogue with five quirky characters, all set on a spaceship. Three sisters and their mentor-mechanic have been barreling aimlessly through space for almost seven years with a broken navigational system.
On the day the audience joins them, a mysterious surge of power collides with the ship and their navigational system comes back on line. The system, an android named N.O.R.T.T.H. (Navigational Operations Run Through Titanium Humanoid), presents them with an important question they must now face.
Although there is not excessive bad language and there is no violence, the show probably isn’t appropriate for children much younger than middle-school age.
“There aren’t shiny puppets or songs with long verses designed for a young audience,” Chapman says. “It is, at times, sad, funny, depressing, exciting, magical and lovely.”
The music draws from 1950s and ’60s rock, as well as glam-rock musicals like “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
The shows on Thursdays through Saturdays will use a pre-recorded soundtrack performed by The Reckonaires — Willows and Matt Curtis on guitar, Sarah Jerns on keyboards, Kevin Wharton on bass, and the inimitable LP (his stage name) on drums. Both Sunday performances will feature The Reckonaires live on stage. All of the performers sing live onstage.
Local sound-engineer Isaac Holden is recording the final cuts that will accompany the performances, so the audio quality will be top-notch. Holden is also recording the cast vocals, and CDs of the “Original Cornwall Cast Recording” will be available for purchase at the performances.