Inspired: Strange Tree Group
Theatre companies pop up all the time, but few are as indelible as this newcomer that channels worlds both unusual and scary
by Catey Sullivan
With last February’s The Dastardly Ficus and Other Comedic Tales of Misery and Woe, Strange Tree Group (strangetree.org) created a stir with its Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Edward Gorey ethos. This fall, the playwright and artistic director Emily Schwartz continues the ensemble company’s penchant for the macabre with Hey Mr. Spaceman!, a tale of “singing robot monster space aliens.” Here Schwartz discusses the company’s influences and direction.
Trapeze artists “In Spaceman, the Martians will be played by girls on trapezes.”
Tim Burton (1) “Family-friendly morbidity, I guess you could call it.”
David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust (2) “Spaceman is about Martians, with a live doo-wop band. We’re thinking David Bowie as sung by the Chiffons.”
Raymond Briggs’s Fungus the Bogeyman (3) “My dad used to read this to me. [It had] all the little details of monster life.”
Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (4) “He inspires our lush and overly theatrical style. The wry humor. The side winking. The secrets between the audience and the characters.”
Tom Waits (5) “His music helped to inspire me during the writing of The Dastardly Ficus, especially. That thumping, grinding rhythm mixed with sort of ethereal musical saw notes and tinkling piano.”
SEE: Hey Mr. Spaceman! runs Oct. 8th–31st at the BUILDING STAGE, 412 N. Carpenter St.; 773-598-8240, strangetree.org.
Photography: Movie still from Corpse Bride, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, Penguin Group, movie still from The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, Michael O’Brien