ONE WAY TRIP TO MARS–A Rock Opera
by Peter Alexander & Johannah Harkness
© 2017 Hollowbody Electric Productions, LLC
Pablo Cruz: Astronaut, and Cassandra’s love interest
Cassandra (“Wildflower”): Astronaut, and Pablo’s new partner
Gobind Singh: Astronaut, and Noriko’s love interest
Noriko Ishahara: Astronaut
Hector: Head of Space Agency
Male Ensemble 1, 2 & 3: Ground Crew at space agency
Female Ensemble 1 & 2: Ground Crew at space agency
Mars- Apparition, a Dancer in Flamenco red, representing the Planet Mars in Pablo’s imagination
Scottish Piper-Apparition representing Cassandra’s Scottish Heritage
Guitar God – Apparition representing the principle characters’ strongest emotions.
The year is 2033. Pablo Cruz and Gobind Singh are the first astronauts chosen for a one way trip to the red planet. While a female personification of Mars, the mysterious vision of Pablo’s imagination, beckons him, his companion and fellow astronaut, Cassandra is left behind, as is Gobind’s wife, Noriko. Several months into the flight, Gobind is take violently ill and dies, leaving Pablo to continue on a solo mission. Meanwhile, cataclysmic events on Earth cause communication links to go down and the once proud and ambitious Pablo is left alone in the universe. The space agency then sends Cassandra on a second and final mission to Mars, along with a storehouse of biological material. But, will she be successful? Will there be a future for the human race?
FULL SYNOPSIS (Song by Song)
Pablo tells his best friend and fellow astronaut, Gobind Singh, that he has fallen in love with Cassandra, another astronaut. (“I’ve Got a Story”)
Astronauts and ground crew are gathered at Space Agency headquarters (OWT2M) to hear the big announcement they have all been waiting for: that two of their own are being chosen as the first humans for a one way trip to the red planet to set up the infrastructure for a future colony. Each, including the female astronauts, Cassandra and Noriko, is expecting that they are the ones who will be chosen, but the announcement comes that the first ones to go will be Pablo Cruz and Gobind Singh. (“You Are the Ones”).
As everyone celebrates the news, the apparition of Mars circles Pablo in an enticing dance that only he can see. Caught up in hubris and excitement Pablo briefly loses himself in a passionate dance with Mars until Cassandra enters the room, reminding him of their deep connection. Pablo is caught between his high-minded desire to fulfill the mission, advancing science and space exploration, and his youthful hubris and excitement at being one the first two people chosen to go to Mars. (“Before Reunion”).
Hector, head of Mission Control, takes Pablo aside for a moment, reminding him of the seriousness of the mission as well as the great honor that he and Gobind, two immigrants, have been chosen. He also cautions him that as the senior officer he needs to look out for Gobind’s welfare and keep him safe. Hector gives Pablo a chance to back out and go on a later mission, but Pablo is committed. (“Hector’s Warning”)
Pablo steps aside in a moment of reflection as he comes to grips with the reality of what he is taking on. He is torn between leaving Cassandra in an uncertain world and the attractive pull of Mars. Turning back to Cassandra he shares with her a moment of tenderness, promise, and a sense of their timeless connection. He has a brief deja vu of being a man called to the cold mistress of the sea, leaving behind in longing at the edge of the world the woman he loved. In Pablo we see a man forced into a double bind, an impossible decision. (“Now That This is Real”).
Cassandra acknowledges that Pablo has trained all his life for this mission, but she, too, is torn by her personal desires, her need to protect him, and her doubts, anxieties, and longing to have her own family. Pablo vacillates but responds that he is bound by a duty larger than both of them. He consoles her, and she responds in kind: they assure each other that love will bind them even though separated by millions of miles (“From the Stars”).
On the morning of the historic flight, Gobind Singh gets up from the bed he shares with Noriko and goes to get dressed. Noriko reflects on his imminent departure. In a moment of insecurity she contemplates trying to convince him to stay, but he is resolved. As she looks out the window she waits to see if he will blow one last kiss to her. (“One Day You’ll Turn Around”).
Later that day, inside their space capsule, Pablo and Gobind revel in the excitement of taking off for Mars with the whole world watching. (“Nine Miles High”).
In the aftermath of all the excitement Cassandra and Noriko seek comfort from some of their colleagues. Cassandra expresses concern that the trip to Mars is like a suicide mission. (“You Should Have Seen His Face”).
On the first leg of their journey Pablo and Gobind land on the Moon for refueling. Looking back at the fragile blue Earth through the blackness of space Pablo is struck by how beautiful it is. From this perspective the universe does not seem random, but ordered, intentional and awe-inspiring (“Space Journey”). [This scene is accompanied by NASA-supplied orbiting flyover of the Earth and then, much further away, images of the Earth from the surface of the moon.]
Pablo and Gobind have a humorous conversation about their respective religious traditions, concluding that on Mars there need be no religion or politics. (“What do you Believe?”)
Cassandra remembers an experience from long ago when she spent the night under a full moon in the desert watching a mysterious flower bloom and die all in one night. Cassandra sees herself, like the Earth, as a physical manifestation of transient life, but also of her life-giving potential. Like the flower, she realizes, not only she, but the Earth, too, will come to an end. Noriko joins her in a reflection on the transitory nature of life (“Night Blooming Cereus”).
Months into the trip after leaving the Moon, Gobind is taken violently ill and Pablo is unable to save him. (“Gobind’s Demise”). Cassandra consoles her friend Noriko (“No Words Can Heal”), and Pablo, Hector, and Cassandra despair for Gobind’s loss (“In the Quiet.”)
Hector is becoming acutely aware that conditions on the planet are deteriorating. He approaches Cassandra, recruiting her to fly an emergency “Wildflower Mission” to Mars before it is too late. (“Running Out of Time”).
Pablo, humbled by the death of Gobind, has landed on Mars without incident and has gone about his responsibilities, setting up habitation modules in preparation for the arrival of others who are supposed to join him in colonizing Mars. But he gets word from the space agency that war has broken out on Earth and that there might not be any future missions. Then, all communication links go down and he is left utterly alone in the universe (“Mars Landing”).
Back on Earth Cassandra and Noriko reflect again on love and loss. In a moment of deja vu Cassandra shares a deep and mournful memory from long ago as if in another life, when she was in black robes, alone in her widow’s walk, searching across the dark sea for her man (“Stubborn Woman”).
Hector, frustrated that deteriorating conditions on earth have compromised the agency’s mission, rants about the selfishness and greed that are destroying everything (“All Eff’d Up”). Hector then calls on Cassandra to go on an emergency trip to Mars–probably the last chance to save the mission. She changes into her flight gear, ready to face her own one way trip to Mars. Conditions have changed on Earth, and instead of the celebration and fanfare that accompanied Pablo’s and Gobind’s flight, an edgy feeling of urgency accompanies hers. Hector urges Cassandra to have courage and determination even in the face of incredible adversity. She must believe in the inevitability of progress, and of her destiny (“Send Off”).
Cassandra is now midway on her two-year flight to Mars. She has no communication with either Earth or Mars, and after months of isolation she occasionally feels overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mission and her responsibility for the future of humanity. She even contemplates suicide as she asks herself, “Who would even know?” Eventually she finds resolve and her heroic center. No longer is she just one woman concerned about her own biological clock. “Wildflower” blossoms into transcendent love and expresses concern for her precious cargo, the “seeds of life.” Now, she sees herself as the potential mother of the all humanity. (“I Am Humanity”).
Pablo has been alone on Mars for nearly three years, completely cut off from all human contact; not even a radio transmission to offer a flicker of hope that Earth or Cassandra still exist. The apparition of Mars is constantly with him, but he has grown weary and resentful of her. He dreams of his past life with Cassandra and all the sensual pleasures of the natural world on the beautiful planet Earth. (“When We Were Dreaming”).
Hector brings together his entire crew. Knowing that the end is near, he takes the time to acknowledge their heroism and their commitment to the mission. In his comments he digs deeper into human history, noting that millions of unsung heroes: ancestors who “worked the land and sailed the seas” and have brought them to this point and made it possible to send humans to Mars. He notes that like many of the ancestors of the most oppressed peoples whose names have been forgotten, he and the crew will also face annihilation even after their efforts and sacrifices are spent. (“No Monuments”).
With communication links cut off and no further news from Earth, Cassandra realizes that she is likely the very last of her lineage. She reflects on her family’s history as Scottish immigrants, realizing that like her ancestors she represents all immigrants who travel from their homelands seeking new frontiers and a fresh start. The apparition of a Scottish bagpiper plays a sad air and then vanishes (“Last of My Tribe”).
The crew at mission control gears up for the coming apocalypse, trying to do whatever they can to ensure Wildflower’s success, while expressing personal moments of fear and anxiety (“Running Out of Time—Reprise”).
The emotional tension at Mission Control is now reaching a peak. The ground crew gently reminds Hector that Wildflower’s was the last flight and that their work is all over. “All we have now is hope that love will carry on.” Even with the imminent loss of life on Earth they proclaim that “love resides in the mystery and this restores faith. This is all the proof I need.” A flash of light (presumably a nuclear bomb exploding) closes the scene (“Forces in the Universe”).
By now, Pablo has sunk deeply into despair. He is long past taking any comfort from his apparition of Mars, in spite of her constant attempts to lure him. He now doubts his original intentions and laments that in leaving Cassandra he was largely driven by his ego and his quest for fame. He contemplates suicide as he questions the point of even carrying on when all hope is gone (“Hope is Gone”).
Wildflower’s mission is on track, in spite of being cut off from Mission Control. Excited and trepidatious, she fast approaches the red planet where she must attempt a manual landing. Pablo has no idea she is on her way, and she does not know if Pablo is even still alive. But all her psychic energy must be focused on making a successful landing. Though she is able to touch down close to Pablo’s base station, it is a crash landing (“Landing Day”).
Pablo sees a flash of light and feels the impact. Thinking it is a meteor or satellite, he goes out to explore, and gradually comes to the realization that it is a landing craft that has crashed nearby. As he nears the craft he finds an astronaut inside and is overcome with emotion to discover that it is Cassandra. But his elation quickly turns to distress as he realizes that Cassandra may be seriously injured and drags her from the wrecked space capsule. (“In the Distance”).
Unsure if Cassandra will survive, and full of remorse and despair, Pablo repeats to her the same message she told him before his own one-way trip: “Fly as high as you can go, your soul will catch up to you.” Cassandra, weak and injured, recovers enough to join him in a final duet (“It Catches Up to You—Reprise”)
The following links are to sample video clips of One Way Trip to Mars at Waterville Opera House August 27, 2017. Since that time the show has been updated.
Thanks to Joel Congleton, who shot and edited video of the entire show.
Before Reunion: https://youtu.be/BR2K-cBarrU
Now That This is Real: https://youtu.be/ngZMJkv3Uu0
From the Stars: https://youtu.be/2jkASBHUHTI
One Day You’ll Turn Around: https://youtu.be/gHkm3Wt02S0
Nine Miles High: https://youtu.be/H8J92Oz5bVg
Space Journey: https://youtu.be/78snzWx5_R0
Stubborn Woman: https://youtu.be/SqFaBLpxFg8
Send Off: https://youtu.be/kyKb1HlX6_k
When We Were Dreaming: https://youtu.be/PV9kYTIkot0
Running Out of Time & Monuments: https://youtu.be/ClL2Dcx2zCY
All Eff’d Up & Forces in the Univers: https://youtu.be/5HzDL09SHQo
Hope is Gone: https://youtu.be/7NoEzL0_X3Q
Landing Day: https://youtu.be/yeWkVEejmOE
In the Distance & It Catches Up to You: https://youtu.be/BKrcuziR0Og