4 Years In the Making, Planet Ant's Sci-Fi Rock Opera Takes Off

Meet the costumers, composers, and performers who made it happen


Published:

Clockwise from left: Willa Rae Adamo, Paco Higden, Jack Bennett, and Jim Territo at rehearsal

“I wondered what it would be like for a sentient being to experience the end of the galaxy, when the stars have burned out, when everything there is to be discovered has come and gone,” says composer Jim Territo. It’s a phenomenon he contemplated quite thoroughly while writing The Daedalus 2 Mission: A Space Opera (D2M), which debuts at Planet Ant Theatre on June 22. The narrative centers on the life and death of space probes in the distant future, questioning the point at which their artificial intelligence ceases to be artificial.

Jim started working on the project about four years ago with lyrical help from his nephew, Joe Territo. This was their first time working together; Jim had written musicals in the past, but with D2M, the duo joined both their musical credentials and sci-fi interests. (Jim says they’re both “sci-fi nerds.”) They initially envisioned the opera as a concept album, writing the first song about the end of the galaxy and working their way back in time. As they wrote, it evolved into a stage production. “For a story like this, the lyrics came first,” Jim says. “Then we built out the music. You look for the hook — the chorus, that one line that really gets at the concept and emotion of the song — and it informs the melody and beat.”

The opera is hardly one that audiences will identify as classical: the 21-song show includes a variety of genres, from musical theater and hard rock to reggae and hip-hop. One of Jim’s favorite songs appears in the middle of the production, aptly called “Beyond and Between.” “The space probes speculate what it would be like to see multiverses,” he explains. “It has a really groovy, Paul Simon-esque drumbeat in the background, with some big, fat vocal harmonies over the top.”

To ensure audiences don’t mistake the A.I. space probes for human beings — something Jim felt strongly about — smart, imaginative costuming was key. For that, he called on Michael Ameloot and Buddy VanLoon, the designers behind the extravagant costumes of a recent production of The Little Mermaid.

“The whole sci-fi thing turned me on a bit,” says VanLoon, a makeup artist and hairstylist by day. He’s also a self-described “cosplay nerd” with a penchant for attending Comic-Con, the wildly popular comic convention, which served as perfect inspiration for the D2M costumes. Unlike in The Little Mermaid, where VanLoon and Ameloot were confined to designing costumes similar to those in the iconic movie, they had free reign to create whatever they could dream up. After brainstorming and sketching, they decided the cast would be outfitted in black jumpsuits fashioned from futuristic materials like foam armor, vinyl, silver paint, and glossy PVC, which helps to alter silhouettes by creating optical illusions. Everyone’s costume is similar, as all of the actors — even the onstage orchestra — emulate space probes aboard a ship.

“In a production like this, costumes can elevate the show so audiences really feel like they’re watching space droids,” Ameloot says. “The trick was making sure audiences could still identify with them, while distinguishing them as non-human.” Clever costuming helps the actors, too: “There are times it can be difficult for them to find their characters, but the first time they put their costumes on, they immediately come to life,” he says.    

That statement is especially — and quite literally — true for this show, where the costumes are integral to the plot. Every space probe has lighting attached to their jumpsuits (which Ameloot and VanLoon outsourced to a special-effects electrician). “Each robot has a life light that represents their heart,” Ameloot says. “These robots are on a never-ending mission, they have an inception and a point where they’re no longer alive — they’ve served their purpose, and the life light goes out. They stay on stage for the whole show, but at what point are they still a part of the actual story? What is their inception, and what is their demise?”

It’s hard to say which aspect of the show is more enticing — the upbeat, varied music or the thought-provoking plot. There’s little doubt audiences will exit the theater deep in their own discussions about the meaning of life, the end of the galaxy, and all things beyond human comprehension. But if Territo hopes viewers leave with one takeaway, it’s to maintain a sense of wonderment. “A lot of astrophysicists, like Carl Sagan, always repeat one phrase: ‘look up.’ I think that’s a good phrase to describe the inspiration for this show,” he says. “Imagine what’s out there, imagine what it tells us about our life, imagine what’s beyond our earthly experience that can still inspire us. You can always be in awe.”


For more information, visit daedalus2mission.com.

 

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Here's Why Petoskey’s Bay View Resort Is Under a Magnifying Glass

The history, facts, and recent allegations against the National Landmark

Expand Your Personal Library with These 6 Titles

New and notable reads to satisfy your inner bookworm

Add These 6 Titles to Your Summer Reading List

New and notable reads to enjoy through the season

A Look Inside Bob’s Jukebox Emporium

Morningside resident Bob Welke is the man to call for vintage music machine repairs, restorations, and more

Checking in With Electric Six

With more than 20 years in the business and 14 albums under their collective belts, a cult-favorite band rocks on
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Review: Testa Barra Wows with Contemporary Dishes
    The Macomb Township restaurant serves Italian fare that is on par with the surging Detroit food...
  2. Michigan-Made, Mother Nature-Approved Tools for Your Kitchen
    Ditch disposables and opt for reusable products
  3. A Deeper Look into the Racial and Ethnic Tensions Dividing Metro Detroit
    From the city to the suburbs, existing segregation could be hindering the region’s progress
  4. Exploring Metro Detroit’s Tiki Trend
    Mutiny Bar and Lost River serve up island vacations with every drink
  5. 3 Eateries that Focus on People, Profit, and the Planet
    These triple bottom line businesses are part of Detroit’s FoodLab organization
  6. A Look at the Inexplicable Exclusion of Detroit Tigers’ Lou Whitaker from the Baseball Hall of Fame
    Writer Michael Betzhold investigates the Major League slip-up
  7. Q&A: Nancy Barr, Curator of Photography at the Detroit Institute of Arts
    Plus, information about the DIA’s upcoming exhibit, Lost & Found
  8. This Vegan Catering Company Celebrates the ‘Natural Beauty of Food’
    Plus, tips on how to create your own photo-worthy grazing board
  9. Meet the Makers: Salt Textile Studios
    This textile maker wants her creations to be unique to ‘here’
  10. Your Guide to Environmentally Friendly Organizations in Metro Detroit
    These 10 local businesses are paving the way for a healthier and happier planet