I had the opportunity to chat with Aaron Kirk Douglas, one of three creators of the new musical SPACED OUT!: THE BEST ALIEN ABDUCTION MUSICAL IN THE UNIVERSE. The show is still a work-in-progress, but the notable creative team is busy getting the show ready for a Portland reading within the year.
SPACED OUT! is the story of a rag-tag group of six misfits who plan to abandon the planet by waiting for aliens to airlift them off a mesa in New Mexico, in an age when social network updates and a never-ending slew of viral crap-o-tainment have replaced real, face-to-face human interaction.
A fame-seeking former reality TV contestant and a socially deficient cameraman are sent to uncover the secrets of the Beacon, an alien-worshipping cult led by a madman with three wives. Together, the group discovers a surprising secret – our planet lies on the brink of world domination. By a surprisingly snarky alien race. Has the time come for Earth’s surrender? Or can everyone tune out, drop in, get to know the neighbors and do what we can to help the Earth and its people before it’s too late?
Here is my conversation with the delightful Aaron Kirk Douglas, as he sheds some light on the creative process of this fun and exciting new project.
Debbie Lamedman: Where did the initial idea for SPACED OUT! come from?
Aaron Kirk Douglas: The initial idea came from an article I saved, from November, 2003, in a newspaper called NEW CONNEXION, which bills itself as “The Pacific Northwest’s Journal of Conscious Living.” The article was called “UFOs: Contact in the Pacific Northwest.” At the time, I was co-producing the documentary MONSTER CAMP and originally I thought it might be a good follow-up film project. (MONSTER CAMP involved following live-action gamers playing Dungeons & Dragons type scenarios outdoors in state parks.)
The New Connexion article discussed a small town called Trout Lake at the base of Mt. Adams where the Sattva Sanctuary is located – reportedly one of the largest UFO hotspots on the planet! The idea fascinated me. But when I imagined following around a group of people camped out on Mt. Adams during the winter . . . well, it just became a little less captivating. I decided sitting at home writing lyrics in my jammies sounded like more fun.
DL: How did you and your collaborators meet?
AKD: In 2008, I decided to try to revive my jazz singing career. I had been singing occasional gigs around Portland, primarily downtown at 10th floor of Meier & Frank 10th in the Georgian Room – at least until it was demolished in 2006. I advertised for a paid accompanist on Craigslist and Kurt Crowley was one of the respondents. We practiced for months and recorded a demo CD. As a musical director, he wasn’t getting the opportunity to write his own music, so I pitched him the idea of co-writing a musical about an eclectic group living in a desert sanctuary waiting
for a UFO. Soon we were toasting and shouting, “Let’s put on a show!” We held our first two readings in May and June, 2010. We rewrote and held three more readings in October 2010 and January 2011 with the help of the Broadway Rose Theatre, specifically Sharon Maroney and director Dan Murphy. After our last readings Kurt moved to New York. By September he had been hired as music conductor for the non-equity tour of IN THE HEIGHTS. In the meantime, the former executive director of Broadway Rose Theatre, Brisa Trinchero, was getting started as a theatrical producer bringing new musicals to Broadway. She liked our project and introduced us to writer Marc Acito. We hit it off and have been working with Marc ever since. Marc also permanently relocated to New York City last year after spending many years based out of both cities.
DL: Is this the first musical you've written?
AKD: Yes, but I’ve been performing and singing since I was five years old (laughs). I started out listening to Disney songs in the backyard on our home swing set and graduated to the hard stuff (Broadway show tunes) as I got older. Besides my love of all things musical, I’ve always had this drive for bringing compelling stories to life – from my career in radio and as a journalist, to filmmaking and writing advertising and marketing copy – storytelling has always been a part of my passion. I think I’ve been preparing for writing a musical all my life, between my professional choices and my singing and acting background.