Out of This World
While countless American earthlings gaze with wonder at the colorful Fourth of July lights filling the nation's skies, such behavior is nothing new for the creative creatures of a couple of local theaters. The result: an attention-starved extraterrestrial's dream come true--two "otherworldly" theatrical productions under way in the Dallas-Fort Worth area at the same time.
Molemo, written and directed by Fort Worth theater guru Johnny Simons, commemorates what has come to be universally known as the Roswell incident, another significant July event in America's curious (sometimes wacky) history. Sometime in the first week of July 1947, a New Mexico rancher named Mac Brazel found mysterious debris scattered on the semi-desert plains of a sheep ranch 85 miles northwest of Roswell. The next day he brought some of the pieces into town and reported to the sheriff, who promptly called an intelligence officer at the nearby army airfield. The officer investigated the ranch, and, on July 8, the army issued a press release saying a flying saucer had been discovered. But the army retracted the statement within hours, newly identifying the esoteric object as a weather balloon. UFO researchers have long since claimed a government cover-up. Multiple witnesses have appeared over the years, saying they handled pieces of the wreckage or saw alien bodies recovered from the area. Government officials swept their poor little corpses into secret labs and lockers at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, so the story goes.
One of the country's first and most famous alleged UFO crashes, the Roswell incident fueled the imaginations of many a curious earthling and inspired a flurry of subsequent UFO sighting reports. In Simons' production, a mysterious Carswell-bound cargo escapes onto Cowtown's dusty, rural roads, where it has an accidental encounter with a local family visiting Grandma and Grandpa's animal puppet-inhabited dairy farm.
More skeptical inhabitants of the third planet from the sun might identify more with Dallas writer Erik Knapp's Trailer Trash From Outer Space. This audience-participation, The X-Files meets Hee Haw spoof pokes affectionate fun at creatures from planets other than Earth, as well as inhabitants of Arkansas and Oklahoma. The melodrama, during which audience members are encouraged to boo and toss popcorn at villain characters, features twangy music by Ken Bethea of Texas bar band The Old 97's, who also fronts Scrap Hotel. As a native Texan with Arkansas roots, director Jamie Baker Knapp feels entitled to make fun of the region's rural heritage. She describes the show as "lots of pickin' and grinnin' comedy."
A largely childhood memory-inspired production, Molemo is more contemplative. Simons, who was 8 at the time of the Roswell incident, recalls reading a barrage of UFO and alien-themed newspaper headlines that prompted him and his father to stand outside their house on the outskirts of Fort Worth and scout the sky for anything out of the ordinary. "It's great to see something just going by the clouds," Simons says.
Baker Knapp comes off as a bit more planet Earth-oriented. When asked if she believes in UFOs and extraterrestrials, she responds, "No, but I believe in trailer trash." So, are you still sure that was a firework you just spotted overhead?
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