Murrysville couple pens musical for CLO’s ‘Gallery of Heroes’ program
The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s “Gallery of Heroes” program brings 50-minute mini-musicals to area schools, educating and entertaining students with stories about historical figures like Galileo, George Washington and Harriet Tubman.
Now, a Murrysville couple will add astronauts to the CLO’s gallery.
“We were trying to think of big milestones for the year we’d be writing it,” Christina McCann of Murrysville said. “When we found out that it was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, and that the Heinz History Center was going to have this great exhibit with the Apollo space module, we knew the direction we wanted to go.”
McCann and husband, Seton Hill professor Joseph Domencic, wrote “Beyond the Moon,” the story of 15-year-old Maya, who has dreams of being the first person to set foot on Mars but believes she is just not special enough to become an astronaut.
Domencic, who also wrote the “Gallery of Heroes” play about Galileo, said in researching real astronauts, he came across a lot of the same uncertainty that is written into the Maya character.
“We read a lot about how guys like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin felt they were just ordinary people, or how they applied 15 times to become an astronaut before being accepted, or how some of them were not that great at science in school,” he said. “I thought, ‘What a great thing for kids to hear,’ that you don’t have to feel like you’re this superhero.”
In the musical, Maya meets real-life astronauts like Neil Armstrong, Mae Jemison and José Hernandez, who take her on a journey to discover that extraordinary feats are accomplished one day at a time by regular people, helping her gain self-confidence in her goal to reach Mars.
“Having a daughter really shapes the way we think,” McCann said. “There’s a push to get more girls involved in STEM education, especially girls in their teens like Maya.”
McCann and Domencic began writing “Beyond the Moon” in the fall of 2017 and provided CLO officials with a treatment in February 2018.
“There was a reading at the CLO’s Sparks festival, then another one in November 2018,” Domencic said. “We started rehearsals in January and started performing in schools on Jan. 14.”
McCann said finding a way to shape an original story around historical figures was the biggest challenge, aside from finding time in their schedules to actually create the show, which is the first joint writing venture for the couple.
“When something clicks and we get excited about an idea, though, that’s the reward,” McCann said.
For more on booking a “Gallery of Heroes” show at a school district, call Patty Maloney at 412-325-6459 .
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .