Life on Mars? Dani Solomon gets interplanetary in ONE WAY RED

Our nearest neighbor, the red planet has a strong gravitational hold over us earthlings. Medium Theatre Company’s Fringe show, ONE WAY RED, looks at why we look to other planets to solve our earthbound problems. Based on real-life accounts of applicants to join a human colony / reality TV show on Mars, the play follows the story of a young woman played by Dani Solomon, from her living room to her Martian confessionals. Dani tells Phindie about this interplanetary Fringe piece. [Panorama,5213 Grays Avenue] September 21-25, 2016; themediums.org/one-way-red; fringearts.com/one-way-red.

Dani Solomon on Mars.

Dani Solomon on Mars.

Phindie: Would you travel to Mars if given the chance?

Dani Solomon: Absolutely not. Space travel is very claustrophobic, and I would lose my mind if I were trapped in a metal closet for six months. However, if I could travel to Mars asleep and cryogenically frozen, then wake up in an inflated air dome on Mars, then possibly. But only if I could return to Earth.

Phindie: David Bowie was wondering if there was any life there.

Dani Solomon: NASA’s strategy for Mars exploration is to “seek signs of life.” There may have been life on Mars at one time, but probably not anymore. Although there’s certainly life outside our Solar System. It’s funny, our perception of the universe’s size has grown so much over the last millennia. As we discovered how large the universe is, and as our instruments got stronger to see further into it, we realized that we were likely the only planet in our Solar System with life. But there was this time when our not knowing that allowed us to imagine that one day we’d reach a whole new civilization in our galactic backyard. That notion has inspired writing, art, and exploration that still stirs us today and is very much alive in ONE WAY RED. I’m not sure which is more lonely—the idea that we’re it, or knowing that we may never reach whoever else is out there.

Phindie: Is that what inspired this show?

Dani Solomon: I first began developing this show for SoLow Fest 2015 after learning about Mars One, the non-profit dedicated to establishing the first human colony on Mars and funding the venture through crowdsourcing and a reality TV show. I was curious about what kind of person would apply to leave their life behind to live in an oxygenated dome on Mars. I was expecting to find people motivated by variations of “One small step…” but was surprised to instead sense a different sentiment entirely. People want to go to Mars because they wouldn’t be leaving much behind on Earth; or because going to Mars just seems like the right thing to do; or because they’re a Martian stuck on Earth who just wants to go home. Quite a few applicants seemed detached from their Earthbound lives and felt that a Mars mission would give their lives meaning. On the other hand, one person’s application to The Bachelor fell through, so this was their last chance to get on reality TV.

With director/co-creator Mason Rosenthal, we wondered, researched, and reflected around the escape from Earth versus the journey to Mars, the desire to do something great and be remembered versus the allure of sitting at home to watch NetFlix, and the comfort of community and the ease of being alone.

Phindie: What forces helped it achieve take off?

Dani Solomon: Mason Rosenthal and designer Morgan Fitzpatrick Andrews, also of The Medium Theatre Company, are co-producing ONE WAY RED. They were excited about the SoLow Fest show and agreed it would be a great project for our theatre company to take on for our first Medium Theatre Fringe show. Together we’ve grown the piece into a new, larger thing that’s part performance/visual art installation, part solo show. Also, support from Rutherfurd Hall, the Colgate University Arts Council, Panorama Artist Collective, and the generous contributors to our fundraiser have made the work possible.

Phindie: Where do you hope to transport your audience?

Dani Solomon: Mars. Okay seriously…ONE WAY RED has gotten us thinking a lot about scale—the universe, a country, a social network, a single body. We’ve had a lot of conversations around loneliness, legacy and narcissism, and I hope the show poses some interesting questions around these ideas.

Phindie: What’s your favorite space movie?

Dani Solomon: I don’t have a favorite space movie, but bits and pieces from a few stand out. I love how Interstellar played with time dilation and created these wonderfully simple planetary worlds. Robinson Crusoe on Mars portrays life on Mars in a totally dated but zany way. Wall-E has this scene where the two robots are twirling through stars with this gliding score playing underneath. That moment captures the romanticization of space in a way that I think reflects the dreaminess of outer space.

Phindie: What do you like about your Fringe venue?

Dani Solomon: Panorama is a raw, industrial space that can feel like an abandoned alien space wasteland. It makes for an intriguing canvas and has influenced the frame of the show. The space is also close to train tracks, so it has been a fun challenge to incorporate the sounds of a distant train into the piece.

I also appreciate that it’s bit off the beaten track. It invites audiences to go a bit out of their way which has the double benefit of aligning with this outer space/ fringe concept of the piece and taking people to an area they may never have been before.

Phindie: Do you have any other picks for this year’s festival?

Dani Solomon: I’m looking forward to seeing Nichole Canuso and Geoff Sobelle in Pandaemonium. Leah Stein’s Portal, Irina Varina’s Speculum Diaries, Applied Mechanics’ FEED, and Almanac’s Exile 2588.

ONE WAY RED
Medium Theatre Company
Panorama (West Philly)
5213 Grays Avenue
September 21-24 at 7:30 PM
September 25 at 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM
themediums.org/one-way-red
http://fringearts.com/event/one-way-red-11/

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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.