Jan 05, 2013 (Winston-Salem Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The countdown is on.
Officials unveiled a clock outside the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts on Friday that will tick down the minutes until "Apollo 13: Mission Control" opens in the center on Jan. 26.
"Apollo 13: Mission Control" is an interactive theatrical production based on the 1970 lunar mission, in which the spacecraft was crippled by an explosion and the astronauts struggled to make it home safely.
In the show, some of the audience members are seated in a replica of Mission Control, complete with computer consoles, flashing lights, data screens and working phones. Those who wish to participate can take an active role in the production, interacting with the cast and helping make the decisions necessary to bring the astronauts back.
And along the way, they get to flip switches, push buttons and answer the rotary phones. "There's something about this tactile playing that gets people really excited," said Brad Knewstubb, stage designer and co-creator of the show.
"Apollo 13: Mission Control," which was originally produced in New Zealand, is on a short tour of the United States, making stops in Tacoma and Spokane, Wash., before coming to Winston-Salem, the last stop on the tour. It's being produced by Bruce Mactaggart, who brought his show "Walking with Dinosaurs -- The Arena Spectacular" to Joel Coliseum in 2007.
Mactaggart said that when he first saw "Apollo," which was operating on a shoestring budget, "I was blown away." He went away from it thinking, "this could be something so much bigger."
Mactaggart hopes "Apollo" will eventually achieve the same kind of success that the animatronic dinosaur show has had. As of this year, the dinosaurs have been seen by 10 million people around the world.
"Apollo" is still in its early phases of development. "We're really just putting our toe in the water at this point," he said.
If it is well-received, Mactaggart hopes to invest more in it, creating new, more elaborate sets, perhaps through a partnership with the UNC School of the Arts. He and others with the show have been talking with school officials about the possibility. "Nothing is set in stone, but I'm certainly hopeful."
"Apollo 13: Mission Control" will be presented in Reynolds Place in the Milton Rhodes Center from Jan. 26 through Feb. 3. Showtimes vary. Tickets are $49 for control-panel seats, $39 for children 12 and younger. There will also be non-control-panel seats available for $35. A family four pack of tickets is $150. For tickets, see www.hanesbrandstheatre.org or call (336) 747-1414.
For more information on the show, or to watch a trailer, see www.apollo13live.com.
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