Monday, May 3, 2021

"Audrey Saves the Universe" streaming from Children's Theatre Company

This Friday, Children's Theatre Company is releasing a new original web series called Audrey Saves the Universe, and I was lucky enough get an advanced viewing of this fun, silly, and sweet show. Entirely created/filmed/edited by company members Autumn Ness (playwright) and Reed Sigmund (director), who are conveniently married, this 90-minute saga is split into seven easily digestible episodes as it explores the power of creativity. The show could be subtitled "what artists do when trapped in their house for a year," in the best possible way. They've created an entire universe out of what's available to them, even enlisting their kids and adorable pug in telling this story. Available through May 28, the entire series can be purchased starting at $15 and is a great way to stay connected to the work that CTC does during this extended intermission.

Audrey (played by Autumn Ness) is a smart and precocious nine-year old with a big imagination. She decides to she's going to make the best movie ever made, a sci-fi story called Starlight Slaughter, in which citizens of the planet Con Queso are charged with protecting the Cones of Creativity from the evil Queen Kimberly. She's filming it by herself in her bedroom studio, with the help of her dog Scorsese, until her cousin Kyle (Reed Sigmund) is enlisted to keep her company. Audrey uses the movie to work through some issues, like dealing with the school bully, being grounded, and feeling like no one understands her. She and Kyle have some mishaps along the way, and eventually Audrey becomes convinced that her story is real. In the end, she discovers her own power, and saves the universe through making stuff, not hating stuff.

Audrey (Autumn Ness) and cousin Kyle (Reed Sigmund)
While geared towards kids, the series is laugh out loud funny even for adults (I could watch Reed Sigmund fall down the stairs a dozen times). If you've seen Autumn and Reed on stage at CTC, you know what talented, expressive, and funny performers they are, and how well they can connect to a young audience, a skill that comes through even in this virtual production. But they don't often get to play kids because CTC, being a children's theater, hires child actors to play the kids on stage. So it's fun to see their childlike sides here too. 

All of the props are made out of things found around the house - dolls and stuffed animals as the characters in the story, egg beaters on a space ship, homemade costumes. The series very much looks and feels like kids playing make-believe. Audrey sings a few made up songs at her keyboard, which is cute and clever. It's super impressive how they filmed and edited this, using different camera techniques (some shot by Audrey) and angles in a way that really shows it from the kids' perspective (with the adults seen from below as a talking mouth, or feet). The quick editing provides great momentum for the story; the 10-ish-minute episodes fly by. And just when you think the episode is over and the credits roll, there's a little tag at the end that makes you want to watch the next episode immediately. 

Watch the video trailer below to get a feel for the story and humor of the series, then click here for more info and to purchase access to the full seven episodes. Once again, theater artists have adapted to the situation we find ourselves in to create something new, innovative, inspiring, entertaining, and fun.