Playwright Rich Mansfield talks about upcoming reading of his ‘Final Issue’

Rich Mansfield.

Look! Up on the stage!

It’s a reading of a play about superheroes taking place Sunday at 7:30 p.m., presented by Theatre Downtown at Homewood Theatre in SoHo.

Theatre Downtown is calling the reading of Rich Mansfield’s “The Final Issue” a “soft opening” for the theater’s 2023-2024 season. B.J. Underwood directs Mansfield, Karen Marie Black, Jared Funderburg and Sara James, and tickets are pay what you can.

Mansfield’s play takes place during the aftermath of the death of the superhero Captain Power, “heroic alien and Earth’s protector.”

Here, the playwright talks about the play – and a little about himself, too.

Can you tell me about you and your theater career?

I grew up in a small town in Illinois where my high school did only one big musical a year, but I’ve always enjoyed performing in whatever facet I could. I’ve written short stories, poetry, sketch and comedy since I was a teen. I went to school for communications and worked as a radio morning show host and writer for about seven years. I tried my hand at short playwriting back in 2017, and those premiered for Theatre Downtown that year.

 What about “The Final Issue”? How did it come about?

“The Final Issue” came out of an idea I had after losing a few people in quick succession. They were my age, one of which was a very close friend, and I was dealing with the loss of childhood and depression and that sense of where to go. So, the play is about loss and change in life through the eyes of three friends that happen to be superheroes. An unexpected guest shows up to the funeral preparations and the group talks through some heavy stuff. I’m a comedy writer, stand-up comic and improviser, so I can’t do much without a heavy bit of sarcasm and humor.  So the show touches on some deep topics, but I hope people can see the humor and heart of the characters.

What is it like being in your own play?

I’m reading the part of the unexpected funeralgoer who in fact the arch-nemesis of the hero that has passed. I wrote a different part with me in mind when I began the process, but I felt I could get something good out of portraying this character instead. It’s an interesting dynamic to be directed with your own words, but I have a definite advantage in that I know what the author was thinking for all the character choices.

What’s next for the play?

My hope is that the reading will be a good re-introduction and fundraiser for the theater in the short term, and I’m planning to see how the show goes in front of people to see where I’m at as far as staging it fully. We may see folks in Spandex as early as next year. I would like to thank Homewood Theater for allowing us their space to put on the event. And Theatre Downtown for having faith enough to “soft re-launch” with my work.

 “The Final Issue,” Sunday at 7:30 p.m., presented by Theatre Downtown at Homewood Theatre, 1831 28th Ave. South.

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