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When he first published his short story, Superhero, in 2011, author Justin McLachlan had no plans of doing anything more with the piece about a man who spends his nights running around D.C. saving individuals from dangerous situations. But after its initial publication in Red, an anthology of short stories edited by Kris Goldsmith, readers reacted. It turns out superheros, or men who fancy themselves as such, still resonate with people who have since grown out of their Superman pajamas. That got McLachlan thinking about turning the story into a web series where he could further develop the story. Eighteen months and a $5,000 grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities later, McLachlan will stage readings of the first six episodes of Sight this weekend at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab.
Sight and Superhero revolve around the life of Andy (portrayed by McLachlan in the readings), a former public defender turned bartender turned vigilante who, because he knows exactly how and when he’s going to die, isn’t afraid to stop crimes when he sees them being committed—-he knows his acts of heroism won’t kill him. The series picks up where the story leaves off, following Andy’s adventures as well as his life beyond saving the day. His friends are concerned when he shows up at their apartments sporting a variety of bruises after fighting off bad guys, but this look at the other parts of his life lighten the mood a bit. A teaser of one of the episodes shows Andy awkwardly trying to explain his job to a counselor: “I’ve been, um, using that to fight crime. Um, I’m a superhero,” he says. The flummoxed look on the woman’s face says it all.
For this weekend’s readings, McLachlan has assembled a local cast and crew that he hopes to bring along for the series, when it eventually is made. Christine Alexander plays Juliet, Andy’s best friend, and Joe Feldman plays James, another friend; the two actors previously worked with McLachlan on The Closet, an entry in the 48 Hour Film Project. Like McLachlan, they’re committed to developing the piece. “You don’t get that opportunity very often,” McLachlan says, noting that the readings are only one step in the process of making the full series. At the moment, McLachlan has written eight 15-minute episodes; the cast has rehearsed and will perform the first six this weekend. But unlike McLachlan, they don’t know what happens in the end.
McLachlan wants to release the web series in early 2014, but that depends on funding. The team launched an Indiegogo campaign this week to fund a portion of the series; they hope to raise about $20,000 in the next 38 days. This weekend’s readings won’t turn a profit, however. All ticket proceeds from the shows will benefit 826DC, the Columbia Heights writing nonprofit that McLachlan has volunteered with for several years. (Disclosure: I’m also a volunteer at a program affiliated with 826DC.)
The adaptation process is something new for McLachlan but, as he notes, “I write episodically.” Get a dose of the series in the trailer and check out the full thing tonight; capes and other superhero accouterments are optional, but always welcome.
The readings begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St. NW. $10–$20.