NOTE: Followup, not a "review". Bridge initially reviewed Hardcover Theater's "A Princess of Mars" in ERBAPA (2018) via a dvd produced by Panthan Press. His report of a NEW REPRINT run of the dvd is big news!

A side discussion of Thark heads residing at the Ekstrom Library, which houses the Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection, created some confusion. This article expands the original reporting to resolve any issues remaining.

While embracing the second dvd release of "POM, Stage Play", "The Rest of the Story" is about collecting stage props and the generosity of the director and others.

ERBMania!'s editor got involved with the director, who is also the playwright. Photos were sent, as well as the complete script! See the supplement below.

* This article consists of two emails by Bridge to erb-list. Typos were corrected. Some editing for clarity and time frame occurred.

—Editor

A Princess of Mars, Stage Play

"The Rest of the Story"

John "Bridge" Martin

Copyright © 2018


Images are from the 2006 production of "A Princess of Mars, Stage Play" which took place in an intimate theater seating 75 per show over a two weekend first run.


To order a copy of "A Princess of Mars, Stage Play", inquire to Steve Schoer buttonmolder at gmail.com. USA orders: $24.00. Other countries may incur other costs.

Be sure to include your snail mail address!


An email from Bridge... (December, 2018)

To my fellow erblist members.

A few days ago I posted some info about the availability of a DVD of the 2006 production of A Princess of Mars by Hardcover Theater, Minneapolis.

Not here, but on the other list, the erbcof list, there was some discussion about the disposition of the Thark head props used in that production. The discussion had to do with where some of the heads ended up. To help clarify matters, I wrote a long post detailing the essential highlights of this story, things that I hadn't bothered to go into when I made the original posts.

So, with that background, here is what I posted over there.

—Bridge


Details, details, details...

The arm positions for the actors were developed to facilitate audience imagination of the 4-armed Tharks. Unable to actually make four-arms that could move realistically, the designers displayed a lot of thought (and work) to create this illusion.

An email from Bridge...

With all the discussion on Thark heads and who has what head where, I thought it would be good to tell "the rest of the story" from my perspective as it may help to answer some questions. In my previous articles -- in ERBapa a few months ago and just this past week on facebook and erblist -- I did not go into a lot of detail about what I knew and when I knew it. Rather, I sought to limit my articles to an essential point, so they wouldn't be too long. In doing so, questions have been raised and clarification sought.

The point of my first article, in ERBapa a few months ago, was to celebrate the old Hardcover Theater of Princess and to remind people of its place in John Carter history.

The point of my posts this past week was to alert fans to the fact that the DVD of that Princess production is now available again.

In the process, I referred to the fate of Thark heads and may have gotten some things wrong, although such was not my intention.

Here, then, is my story, and I hope it answers most questions.


1. In 2006, Hardcover Theater of Minneapolis presented a multi-day run of "A Princess of Mars." The amateur theater group was dedicated to presenting plays using novels which were difficult to present on stage. They certainly rose to the challenge with Princess, following ERB's script, unlike bigtime producers such as Disney. On a limited budget, they had to use imagination for props, and I thought they did an outstanding job.

See an early 2006 notice at:
Erbzine. It was this production that was originally video recorded by Jeff Long and Joan Bledig.

2. Some ERB fans from the Chicago Muckers group went to see the play—twice, I believe Joan Bledig, a Muckers member, said. They loved it too and, with permission, made a video recording and also did cast interviews. These were placed on a DVD under the imprint of Jeff Long's Panthan Press, and sold to interested ERB fans. These fans who did this—their own time and at their own expense—certainly deserve our applause.

3. I bought one of the DVDs and enjoyed it immensely.

4. Several months ago I got the idea of doing an ERBapa contribution on the play. Since the time when Hardcover did its great job, we had the Disney and Asylum efforts, both of which fell short in the eyes of many fans. Since 2012, we've seen a lot of fan discussion off and on from those who liked those efforts and those who didn't. I thought it would be interesting to remind everyone of how a group of amateurs had done a better job than the "big guns."

5. I thought it would be important to watch the DVD again so I watched about half of it on my DVD. Midway of the play, the DVD froze up and if there was a way to unfreeze it, I was ignorant. I was dead in the water.

John Carter and Dejah Thoris

6. I contacted some of the Chicago Muckers, trying to find out if there were copies still for sale. I eventually got hold of Jeff Long who told me that not only were there none left for sale, but his own copy of the DVD was either missing or inoperable (I forget which).

7. So, I looked up the Hardcover Theater website and it's still there, although the theater group itself disbanded a few years ago. I either called the contact number or used the "contact us" button to send a message, and a few days later I was contacted by Steve Schroer, one of the leaders of the Little Theater group. Steve had no extra copies of the DVD either, but he told me he would email me with an attachment of a video file that I could watch on my computer. He did, and I did. And I wrote and sent in my ERBapa article.

8. In the course of our conversation, Steve told me that, after all these years, he still had the remaining leftover Princess props in his garage -- Thark heads and some other items, possibly including the red masks the actors wore. He said he didn't know what to do with them and that they were taking up space and it would be a shame to take them to the dump. I agreed. I suggested he put them on ebay but he said he'd thought about that and figured the cost of shipping the heads properly would be prohibitive. He said he might even be willing to give them away.

9. That "give away" part caught my attention, and I asked him if a fan were to go to his house would he be willing to give them away. He said yes. Rudy Sigmund in Fargo, N.D., is not only the fan I was aware of who lived closest to Steve, but also a fan of noble integrity. I got hold of Rudy and told him all of this and asked if he would be interested in obtaining the items from Steve and then keeping for his own collection whatever he wanted out of it and possibly taking the rest to Chicago for the ECOF and finding new homes for them there, whether at the Oak Park Museum, through the ECOF fund-raising auction, or through other efforts.

10. Rudy was enthused about this idea and took on the project. His son, who lived even closer than he, was able to obtain the items from Steve and now has them safely stored. Rudy was able to get a nice Thark head for his collection. Rudy told me recently he plans to let the Oak Park Museum have whatever it would like of the remaining props and he is giving thought as to how to find homes for the remainder. He has been in contact with Gerry Spannraft about the museum.

11. ERB fans owe a big debt of gratitude to Rudy for stepping up to the plate and doing this for the legacy of ERB.

12. 12. One of the people I talked to mentioned that one of the Thark heads was already a part of the ERB collection at the University of Louisville. ERB fan Jess Terrell was able to confirm this. Not only does the Louisville ERB Collection have a Hardcover Theater Thark head, but it also has one sculpted years ago by ERB's son, John Coleman Burroughs.

13. When I talked to Steve Schroer the first time, I told him that there might be fans who would be interested if the DVD of the play was ever made available again. Steve took that under advisement.

14. A couple of weeks ago, Steve got hold of me and let me know that he had gone ahead with that project, and had in his possession a number of brand new DVDs to sell to interested fans ($24 including shipping). He had one concern, though. Originally, he had sent his electronic email version to the DVD company to make the new DVDs. They, however, got back in touch with him and said it would be a lot easier if they had an actual DVD to copy. Steve had the Panthan Press DVD still in his possession and, unlike my copy, his still worked. So, he sent it to the company.

15. The company made the DVDs and returned them to Steve. When he saw them, he realized there was something to be concerned about. The DVD company had copied not only the DVD of the play, but also the extra features (cast interviews, etc.) done by the Panthan Press crew (I believe that is essentially Jeff and Joan). The DVD stated that it should not be duplicated without permission from Hardcover Theater and/or Panthan Press. Steve wanted to be sure he had the blessing of Panthan Press and asked me to help.

16. Once again, I made some inquiries with a couple of the Muckers (Jim Hadac and Ken Manson) and was able to get contact info for Jeff Long who, essentially, IS Panthan Press. Jeff was very enthusiastic about the project and told me that Steve certainly had his blessing. I passed that info on to Steve and then, as I had told him I would do, I publicized the availability of the DVD in four facebook ERB groups as well as on erblist.

17. I think that's about it -- the full story, although there are other elements to be added, likely at the ECOF.

18. I hope that Steve gets a lot of ERB fan support for going to the effort of making this DVD so that fans can enjoy it. I'd also like to see support for Steve's efforts because of the fact that he saved those props all of these years and that they are now going to be available to be seen and, in some cases, owned, by ERB fans who will love them and appreciate them.

Steve's paypal address is buttonmolder "at" gmail.com so you can order it that way. Those who wish to ask questions may email him at that address. Those in other countries will have to pay a bit more than the $24 to cover extra postage, so should email him first to find out a total cost, before using paypal.

—John "Bridge" Martin

THE SCRIPT

I got involved with this project when Bridge submitted it for inclusion at his ERBmania! Edgardemain contributor column. During the initial setup I was placed in contact with Steve Schoer, the director and writer of "A Princess of Mars, the Stage Play". I asked for more information, some images and—surprise!—I also received a copy of the complete script!

At a little over 13,000 words, the script is a bit large for this particular page, so only the title page and the first scene are included below.

What I found most intriguing in this stage play is that the major points of Edgar Rice Burroughs novel were treated with great respect, given the limitations of the live stage, limited cast, and a single performance area. Some literary license was used but all of that was true to the intent of the original author's words and WORLD. These modifications and gloss-overs are understandable. I, for one, am appreciative of Steve's devotion to Burroughs' original when he wrote his adaptation.

Note: For clarity script is reformatted as a "radio" play: Stage, F/X and lighting directions are LEFT and italic. Speaking parts are offset centered.

I've read the entire play. Enjoyed it. Through the generosity of Bridge it appears a DVD is coming my way! Thanks!

A PRINCESS OF MARS

based on the 1912 novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs

adaptation © 2006 by Steve Schroer

JOHN CARTER, an earthling

TARS TARKAS, jed (chieftain) of the Tharks (tribe of green Martians)

SOLA, a female Thark

WOOLA, a calot (Martian dog)

a WHITE APE

DEJAH THORIS, princess of Helium (city of red Martians)

TAL HAJUS, jeddak (king) of the Tharks

DAK KOVA, jed, later jeddak, of the Warhoonians (tribe of green Martians)

BAR KOMAS, jeddak of the Warhoonians

KANTOS KAN, a red Martian military man

a HIDEOUS CREATURE

an OLD MAN, keeper of the atmosphere factory

SAB THAN, jeddak of Zodanga (city of red Martians)

ATTENDANT to Sab Than

TARDOS KOSIS, jeddak of Helium

CHORUS of THARKS, WARHOONIANS, GUARDS, etc.

The script is constructed for a cast of nine. The actors portraying JOHN CARTER and DEJAH THORIS are assigned to those roles only; the other actors have multiple roles, including as members of the CHORUS.

The major design element of the show consists in the "mask-poles" carried by actors portraying green Martians. These are large, hideous heads mounted atop six-foot dowels. They are used partly as puppets, partly as totems. When the actors need to have both hands free, the mask-poles are placed in holes in the scenery (rim, rock—see below) that serve to hold them upright.

The red Martians wear red masks. All props are mimed with the exception of the Zodangan fliers.

The major staging convention is that while the characters—especially JOHN CARTER—narrate their own physical actions, they perform these actions.


Music. In the darkness, a recorded voiceover.

JOHN CARTER

I do not know why I should be afraid of dying, I who have died twice and am still alive. Nevertheless I have the same horror of death

Lights up on a bare stage, revealing JOHN CARTER, who now speaks live to the audience.

As you do, you who have never died. My name is John Carter. During the War of Northern Aggression I served in defense of the State of Virginia. After Gettysburg my army was gone, my home was gone, my family... But I was rich: I had 300,000 dollars—Confederate money. So I traveled west to Arizona, to try my fortune prospecting for gold. And that is where my story begins because that is where I died. The first time I died.

Music.

A band of Apaches had been pursuing me; they killed my partner and chased me into a cave. I had two revolvers, a carbine, and plenty of ammunition. I was prepared to sell my life dearly. But it was not at the hands of the Apaches that I met my death. In fact, I do not know how I died, except that

Sound fx: eerie.

One moment there was a strange sound behind me, and a strange odor in the air, and the Apaches were fleeing in fear. The next moment I was standing over my own body, looking down upon it, and it was dead; I was dead. I cannot be dead, I thought. If I were dead, I would not be

Walking.

Irresistibly drawn to the mouth of the cave, where, looking out over the Arizona desert, I could see a red pinprick

Red light on his face.

Burning in the sky. Mars, the planet named for the god of war. As I gazed, it seemed to call to me from across the unthinkable void, to attract me like iron to a lodestone. My eyes closed

Blackout. Weird, swirling music. Recorded voice again.

And I felt myself drawn through the trackless immensity of space!

Sound, music out.

I opened my eyes upon a weird landscape.

Lights up. Two strips of hardened foam—irregular, curving, and colored red—are wrapped around the upstage portion of the playing area, representing part of a crater rim. At center stage a similar lump of foam represents a rock. These pieces range from 1.5' to 2' in height; the Tharks and Warhoonians stand on them in order to suggest that green Martians are much taller than humans and red Martians. JOHN CARTER again speaks live to the audience.

Mars! The red dirt under my knees could mean nothing else. I stood up

Jump.

And sprang three yards into the air! I took a step

Jump.

And leapt twenty feet! I tried to walk

Jump.

And found myself hopping madly out of control. My muscles were perfectly attuned to the Earth, but here they're too strong. I shall have to learn to use my body all over again.

He takes a few tentative steps. Three green Martian heads appear, poking out from backstage. Enter three THARKS, carrying mask-poles, coming up behind JOHN CARTER, who has made some progress in learning to walk.

That's better.

Suddenly sensing the THARKS, he turns and sees them. They utter war cries and jump up onto the crater rim. Music.