‘Darkside’ preps to sell out seats

Charlie Roetting, John Scheller and Timothy Rhoades strike the traditional space program pose.

Every time a spacecraft leaves the Earth’s surface, it faces a galaxy full of the unknown. This final frontier calls to scientists and adventurers alike. But every journey is different, and like many great adventures, they don’t always go as planned.

“Darkside” is set in 1973, during the height of the American space program. When the fictional Apollo 18 mission goes awry, two of the ship’s three astronauts become stranded on the moon’s surface. As their crew mate works to rescue his comrades, he faces his own anxiety while orbiting the moon’s dark side.

Ken Jones’ production opens Oct. 25 and the seats are already almost sold out.

“I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, across from the Kennedy Space Center,” said Jones, playwright and chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance. “I used to watch the launches, but when we moved away, I didn’t really think much more about it.”

Then, when Jones was in graduate school, he heard the song, “The Chain Gang.”

“I don’t know what it was about that song, but it got me thinking about the space program again and it was the inspiration for ‘Darkside,'” he said.

The show, written 22 years ago, has seen more than 450 productions and 5,000 performances, but this is the first time Northern Kentucky University has done it.

“We needed a small acting play for our acting students,” Jones said. After directing “Urinetown” in the spring, he was ready to take on a smaller show.

The show features a small cast and only lasts about an hour and a half. “The nice thing about a smaller, shorter show is it gives the students more time to spend on their individual acting,” Jones said.

“Darkside” takes place in present tense, but the time spent on the dark side of the moon is presented in flashbacks. This element makes the show different from what audiences has seen in the recent past and it also poses some new challenges for the cast. The story is also meant to get the audience stirred.

“When people watch the show, they’ll be able to relate it to their own lives and priorities,” Jones said. “It’s an entertaining night of theater.”

As the resident playwright, his shows are performed once every few years. One of those fateful productions was the musical, “Burgertown,” which can still be seen in Chicago’s professional theaters.