It’s a Spaceship Now

Stu has his coffee. But only after serving his guests!
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

It’s a Spaceship Now is a solo show created by Stuart Wilson. This high-energy, heartfelt and hilarious show tell the story of a man who decides to point his life at the sky by building his very own spaceship. Originally presented through the Wilbury Group, the show was adored by audiences and lauded by critics. In it’s first full-production run, directed by Susie Schutt and stage managed by Nicky Mariani, it was nominated for Best New Work by  Motif Magazine.

Press:

Caught in His Own Orbit
by Bill Rodriguez
The Providence Phoenix

You know how some people have such colorful lives and vivid imaginations that you think that with a little organization and dramaturgy they could turn that into a theater piece? Well, Stuart Wilson’s workaday life, as described in It’s a Spaceship Now, is prosaic and work-free, but he has the eager imagination of a little boy, so when he goes skipping off describing his adventures, only the terminally sedentary will not be tempted to follow.

Stu's spaceship takes off.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

…his one-man show is an hour of whimsy and DIY laid-back lifestyle instruction, written and performed by Wilson. Empathy transfusions are the lifeblood of this performance. We join in the chorus about how he feels classy in his khakis, while he strums a ukulele; in shades and a sparkly jacket, he does a hip-hop rendition of “Space Is Scary” (written by his brother Trevor) while we beam like doting parents.

We are addressed as though we are sitting across from him at his kitchen table as he directs an animated one-sided conversation at us. It starts out casually, digressing here and there, and eventually focuses on a humorous but metaphorically apt dream he has had since he was a boy — to travel into space. Not to Mars or anything greedy, just a modest little arc up out of the atmosphere to float around for a while and return.

Wilson sure does want us to like him. Right off he distributes 17 written-down scene titles, with no particular purpose other than getting the audience involved. Later on, he asks how many people want coffee. Nine? Okay. Decaf? Nobody. Okay. He prepares a couple of batches in two large French presses, going on with his banter.

The set apparently is a reconstruction from his apartment, furnished mostly with things he has found and has been given. Dumpster diving, he tells us, is his main method for getting what he needs. “I don’t even have to think about what to buy,” he tells us. “I just wait, and stuff comes to me” (that stops short of socks and underwear, he makes sure to tell us, which his mother gets for him). Without pathos he informs us that the stuff sometimes includes heaps of abandoned french fries at Trinity Brewhouse. He’s so relaxed. He asks: “Do you really have to know what day it is?”

Stu has finally made it to space.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

Wilson’s lack of ambition was troubling him a bit last year when he was following TV news accounts of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. His identification with Data merged into an urge to do more with his life, become more human. Making art from life, as demonstrated here, is just that accomplishment.

Like that nine-year-old (who seems to be wearing him like a grown-up-suit), Wilson has an imagination bursting with ideas. Fortunately for us, one of them was to take the time to develop what could have been just an anecdote over a beer into a full-fledged performance that we can see successfully take flight. At one point, Wilson explains that he wants to achieve the first artistic exploration into space. He uses crayons but he does succeed, albeit with rough edges. And he draws us into the picture he creates. I, for one, appreciate his inviting us along.

Stu does The Breakfast Dance.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

It’s a Spaceship Now
by Christopher Verleger
Edge Providence

Solo (one man or woman) shows are a challenge for even the most gifted and seasoned of performers, because not only must the individual possess what is known as stage presence, he or she also has to keep the audience engaged with how he reacts to what are seemingly his own words. A tall order, yes, but the remarkably talented Stuart Wilson, who does double-duty as both the writer and performer of The Wilbury Group’s “It’s a Spaceship Now,” need not worry.

Stu possesses a boundless curiosity and child-like exuberance, complemented by Wilson’s fervent imagination and incorrigible likability. To help us get better acquainted, the aspiring astronaut invites audience members to join him for a cup of French-pressed coffee, participate in a sing-along, and just to ensure everyone is on track, he’ll occasionally call attention to the name and number of each scene, as indicated on the paper tabs earlier distributed among the crowd.

In addition to the musical numbers, costume changes and his compulsive recitation of various checklists, Stu also appears on screen, abruptly and unexpectedly as an egotistical news reporter, and in an amusing series of montages that illustrate his unconventional creative and constructive process.

Stu sings his victory song.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

Whether or not Stu succeeds at what he has set forth to accomplish, he is well deserving of our gratitude for inviting us along for the ride. “It’s a Spaceship Now” is an immeasurably fun, interactive night of theater where you’ll leave feeling like you’ve made a new friend.

It’s a Spaceship Now: Wilbury’s New Work Takes Off
Motif Magazine

The Wilbury Group’s inaugural production of their New Works Development program, It’s a Spaceship Now, is unlike any show you’ve seen. I can assure you that.

I realized what kind of play this was when the show came to a truck stop pause and Stu gave out fresh coffee to the audience. He served about nine people, and the play did not resume until each one had mug in hand. Halting the production to distribute hot coffee was but the first of many moments of fun and whimsical weirdness in Spaceship.

Stu has something to tell you.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography

The concept of Spaceship hardly does the production justice. It’s the potpourri of artistic design that makes it so fascinating.

My favorite thing about Spaceship was the sheer multimedia experience. The story was at times a PowerPoint presentation, a model rocket on a zip line, and sometimes a hip-hop anthem. At one point, Stu (dangerously) opened up the floor for Q&A from the audience. There were graphs and a photojournal and probably the best use of Kurt Russell in any production.

Sooner or later, all of us have our “big thing.” That all-or-nothing, now-or-not adventure that alters the course of our lives, redeems our past failures, and sets us up for success … hopefully. For guys like Stu, it’s about next level aeronautics, skull crushing g-force and epic clips of Kurt Russell. For the actual Stuart Wilson, it just might have been doing something personal, fun and fearless. It’s a Spaceship Now was whatever the hell it wanted to be, and that was cool.

Stu talks to himself.
Photo: Brian Gagnon Photography