Be Not Afeared! HE-MANLET is Here! New Millennium Begins Its 20th Season

Be Not Afeared! HE-MANLET is Here! New Millennium Begins Its 20th Season

New Millennium Theatre Company (NMTC) presents: The Tragedy of He-Manlet, Prince of Eternia

Something's rotten in the state of Eternia. The king is dead, and it's up to Prince Adam to seek justice or lose the figure of action! It's Shakespeare meets Saturday morning in a brand new iambic pentameter adventure that begs the question; "To He, or not to He?" In the end, "He-Manlet" is a very personal story about being true to one's self, and the secrets that we keep. It's about the roles we find ourselves in, and the difficulty of breaking those molds. It's about good versus evil and standing up against a world gone mad. It's about tragedy and loss and Shakespeare's finest play. But mostly it's about a sweet ass Saturday morning cartoon from the 80's that ended every episode with a lesson about being a better person.

Playwright, Dramaturg, and Co-Artistic Director of NMTC, Adam "Roz" Rosowicz - " "By the Power of Grayskull... I HAVE THE POWER!" Those words have been etched across my brain for literally as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the He-Man cartoons. I was old enough to see (and be somewhat underwhelmed by) the Masters of the Universe movie in the theater. I had all the action figures, playsets, and vehicles. I had swords and costumes and posters and puzzles and vinyl records, you name it. I loved He-Man. I still do.

I don't remember where I first came across the notion that Skeletor was, according to some obscure piece of Masters of the Universe lore, He-Man's uncle. It was probably some listicle about "15 facts that will RUIN your childhood" or something. In any case, upon hearing that little nugget of trivia, two things happened: First, I immediately thought of Hamlet because it's the most famous uncle/nephew archetypical story there is, and second, I had to write a play called "The Tragedy of He-Manlet, Prince of Eternia".

The idea burned inside me and the more research I did, to my surprise and delight, the more He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, with its colorful band of heroic warriors and evil villains, perfectly fell into place in Shakespeare's tale. The story of the young, conflicted prince versus his villainous, usurping uncle, played out in the gonzo, over-the-top medium of 1980's Saturday morning cartoons? I had to explore the idea further. Whenever I would give someone my quick elevator pitch, it was electric. Even if they weren't a child of the 80's, He-Man and Skeletor are pop culture icons, recognizable by virtually everyone from either TV, comic books, movies, or action figures. And Hamlet is just as ubiquitous, having his story taught, told, and reimagined in times beyond counting.

The play took me a long time to write (due in no small part to the iambic pentameter) and in that time the world changed a lot. There's no avoiding some of that reality bleeding into the work we produce and I didn't want to shy away from it. So at the risk of sounding cliché, I couldn't resist commenting on the idea of a boorish, bad-guy cartoon becoming the despotic ruler of a once peaceful and prosperous land. In my own way, much like Adam in the show, I got to use writing the play to work through some of those hard to face feelings, and in some very small way, stand up to it."

Director and Managing Director of NMTC, Ali Keirn - "I have always had a small obsession with exploring strange combinations that just work. Examples include: 1) Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz and 2) the choreography to Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Chorus Line finale One (Singular Sensation) - this one is glorious, trust me on that... So when my friend and partner in stage crime Adam Rosowicz first pitched the idea of a He-Man / Hamlet mash up, I was immediately into it. Some things just work, far beyond the thought of an amusing title or text. Luckily for us, He-Manlet is one of those things.

It has been a surreal experience to work on this show, specifically in terms of research. I was born in 1983, so He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was in re-runs by the time I was tuning in from my grandparents living room at the age of 4-5ish. I was too young to retain any memory of what was happening in these stories, but the images I saw on the screen were burned into my brain. These early 80s cartoons were magnificent and they made an impression. When I started to rewatch in preparation for directing this show, the experience of being a little, little kid and watching these guys save the world from Skeletor over and over again came flooding back to me. I am grateful to work with a company that allows myself and so many of our audience members to experience that sensation. Watching these cartoons and melding Shakespeare's text with this glorious world of Eternia reminds me why we do what we do as a company and as artists. It is my pleasure to lovingly recreate the images that have stayed with me for over 30 years, and it is my hope that they stay with you, too."

The Tragedy of He-Manlet, Prince of Eternia will run August 24th through September 10th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 3:00pm & 8:00pm. There will be a 3pm matinee on Saturday, September 2nd and we will be going dark the remainder of Labor Day weekend. Performances take place at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave.)

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through Stage 773. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can also visit nmtchicago.org.

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