By Richard Schultz, May 2016 Issue.
Space 55, one of the Valley’s edgiest theater companies, will premiere a new musical that has been in the works for nearly two decades.
Set against the back-drop of a retro-music club scene, Blue Galaxy tells the story of a beautiful, but seriously overweight woman who wants to be loved in spite of her weight – not because of it. Her steadfast mindset poses a problem for the earnest chubby-chaser who pursues her.
Creator and Tempe resident Kim Porter (pictured) started working on the project 19 years ago and believed it could be a great screenplay, but put it aside to direct and develop the plays and screenplays of dozens of writer/performers.
In 2002, Roger P. Clark, a songwriter Porter met in a childbirth prep class in San Francisco, gave her a CD with songs that he was hoping she could write the book for a musical.
“The songs had a Kennedy-era vibe to them, and I tried to write a musical, but failed because I didn’t have anything to say regarding that era,” she explained. “Then, one day while driving across the desert in an area where the radio cut out, I fished that CD out, popped it in … And then it slammed into me all at once: Blue Galaxy is that story. I had the whole first draft composed in my head by the time I pulled into the driveway. After waiting for over a decade, the first full draft was committed to paper in a week. Later, I had the vision to convert the screenplay into a stage play.”
Blue Galaxy, Porter explained, was inspired by a period of her youth when she befriended a group of hipsters who dressed in 1950s styles, listened to vintage music and drove old cars. She was an outsider to the scene, but was fascinated by it.
Lana, the main character, is inspired by a variety of women Porter met in San Diego and San Francisco who she shared a common trait with: they had been abused or abandoned by a father in their youth.
“None of these women knew what love was supposed to feel like and so they routinely dated and sought out men who mistreated them,” she said. “Blue Galaxy grew out of the urge to tell a story where the main character finally stopped sabotaging herself, ended dating jerks and found love.”
Space 55 artistic director Duane Daniels, who is directing this production and directed her award-winning plays Munched and Liferaft Willie, was the first person to see the script.
Porter spent several years revising both the screenplay and stage play versions of this project with readings all around the Valley. When Daniels took over his new role at Space 55, he immediately reached out to Porter and proposed the premiere of Blue Galaxy.
According to Porter, the title is based on a car, a 1959 Ford Galaxie, which is nothing but trouble for the main character.
“The car is a legacy from her father who made the car famous via a hit-song he wrote in 1959,” she said. “The fact that she clings to this automobile, despite the many times it breaks down at the worst possible moments, is a microcosm of her relationship to her father and to her own notions about love.”
The premise of the production, Porter said, is more a play with music, similar to a rock-n-roll bio film where every song is sung in the context of a nightclub or a recording session. With a cast of 14, these are not characters that who break into song, but are singers the audience meets while they are singing.
“Young adults, in particular, will recognize themselves in the struggle of learning to recognize what is good for you,” she said. “This is a grim, sexually explicit, R-rated story where an urban audience will recognize themselves.”
Porter’s favorite scene is a bloody bar fight accompanied by the blistering-upbeat-country song, “Too Much Baby.” She also loves the 11th hour love story that develops for Tina, a transgender woman who struggles to find love.
“Tina is transitioning,” she said. “She is isolated and yearns to be loved, but has a fun journey bringing her to a potential love of her own.”
Porter, who coaches solo performers, can be spotted storytelling at various Valley locations, including the Lit Lounge at Crescent Ballroom and the Bar Flies storytelling series at Valley Bar.