In the year 2037, on the eve of an historic landing, NASA secretly hires six Hollywood writers to brainstorm the first words on Mars.
WRITER'S NOTE (December 2023):
I love space movies – The Martian, Contact, The Right Stuff, Star Trek, Hidden Figures, Arrival, Guardians of the Galaxy… the list goes on. I could offer a lesser-known recommendation: Operation Avalanche is a brilliant mockumentary riffing on the conspiracy that NASA faked the moon landing. As a cast and crew, we actually had the opportunity to sit down and watch Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey together – two films that served as guideposts for We Open on a Red Desert.
I remember reading a headline a few years ago stating that Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi blockbuster Gravity had a significantly higher budget than India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. It was a gobsmacking statistic – the remarkable notion that more resources were expended on fictional space exploration than supporting the real deal. As a kid, I was always infuriated by the scenes in Apollo 13 that depicted interest in space travel waning after Armstrong took his first steps. There’s a line in my play where Mae laments this state of affairs, asking “Why are actors ‘stars’ but not astronauts?” Val replies: “Well, they used to be.”
The time has come to Hollywood-ize NASA again, to restore astronauts to the top of the pop culture conversation. We are about to reach several momentous milestones, yet few of us seem to care or even be aware. Next year, the crew of Artemis II will be the first human beings to orbit the Moon since 1972. Then, in 2025, Artemis III is scheduled to mark humanity’s triumphant return… and to land the first woman and person of color on the lunar surface. This isn’t some distant sci-fi future. The Artemis program's long-term goal is to “facilitate the feasibility of human missions to Mars.” Red planet, here we come. Again, this isn’t Kubrick or Cuarón – we’re talking Mars in our lifetimes. If nothing else, I hope this play gets you excited about the historic moments in our near future.
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