|Photo by Sarah Whiting|
|Dan Beckmann, Jim Lichtscheidl, and Alex Brightwell.|
David Bar Katz shines a light on not only one of the greatest fictional heroes of the 20th century, but also the mild-mannered man who helped to create him in The History of Invulnerability
. The play, which opens this weekend at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, takes a look at the life of Jerry Siegel who, along with Joe Shuster, created Superman
in the 1930s.
Director Hayley Finn notes that the play's title works on several different levels, not just on the character's invulnerability, but also the turmoil Siegel experienced in the years following the creation of the character. "It explores how [Superman] was taken away from him. He sold it unknowingly for $530 dollars," Finn says.
It also tackles the very nature of the character, a super strong crusader for justice created by Jewish men at the start of the Holocaust, Finn says.
The production features not only the creators (brought to life by Jim Lichtscheidl as Siegel and Alex Brightwell as Shuster), but also their creation. Superman is played by Dan Beckmann.
The play merges the real-life experiences of Siegel and the fictional exploits of Superman. That meant Finn had some rather fun-sounding research to do. "I read a lot of the comics, especially the old comics," she says.
Story-wise, the structure means there is a lot of bleeding over. It is not constructed as a biopic. The subconscious is at play as it tackles what this superhero can and cannot do. "He's not in control of what is happening. It is like being in a dream, it is disorientating and he has to navigate it," Finn says.
Finn is excited by the cast, led by Lichtscheidl.
"I met him at the Playwrights' Center and have seen him in various shows. I have long admired his work," she says. "The wonderful thing about Jim is that he taps into a real vulnerability. That's very important for the role. He also has a great sense of humor and that comes out in moments of the script. He is very flexible and really smart."
The challenges are different for Beckmann, who has to take on such an iconic character, Finn adds.
Nearly 80 years after his debut, Superman is still going strong, starring in numerous comic titles and in a new (albeit very bad) film in 2013. "Superman is very American to me. He embodies a very idealistic quality and spirit. He came here as an immigrant. He was adopted, and became a part of the culture. He grew out of a strong moral code, especially in the early comics," Finn says.
IF YOU GO:
The History of Invulnerability
Hillcrest Center Theatre
1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul
For tickets and more information, call 651.647.4315 or visit online.
1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul, MN