In the era of the great distraction, perhaps the true treasure is the ability to stay present.
The latest iTheatre Saratoga production explores just that through a revisiting of “Guardians of the Treasure.”
“The play is very timely for the chaotic pressure that everyone feels in this 24/7 world that we live in,” said Selma Nemer, author and owner of One Roof in Saratoga Springs.
Nemer and her granddaughter, Gabrielle, actually wrote the book, which iTheatre’s artistic director/adapter, Mary Jane Hansen, later turned into a play.
“When she was a little girl, we would make up bedtime stories. I’d say part of the story, she’d say part of the story. The thing that was so astonishing to me was I was always trying to protect her and not make the story scary or dark, and she naturally would bring in the monsters and the witches and the darkness in a very dramatic and artful way,” Nemer said.
After several years of creating the stories -- usually over the phone, as Gabrielle lives in New Mexico -- Nemer suggested they start writing them down.
“Every Saturday, we would have a phone session for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half,” Nemer said.
It took about two years of phone calls and working with an editor, they published “Guardians of the Treasure,” a tale following Chrystal (played by Jamie McCallion) and Stephine (played by Kayrena Meyers), young girls who embark on an unexpected adventure when they discover a treasure from their ancestors. As darkness tries to overtake the world, the girls have to learn to trust themselves and the treasure they’ve been given.
When Hansen read the book after it came out in 2015, she knew she wanted to adapt it for the stage. A year later, iTheatre performed the piece at the National Museum of Dance.
“It was a challenge, which I’m always up for, especially with iTheatre Saratoga. We’re always looking for out-of-the-box ways of presenting things that go beyond the realm of traditional theater,” Hansen said.
They’re revisiting the production this weekend because it feels timely, and to have a chance to further explore the characters and storyline.
“We typically have short rehearsal periods because we are a professional theater and so have to be mindful of our budget. We didn’t really have a whole lot of time to get into depth with our characters [before]. So this time, with the mothers and the girls, I’m trying to really deal with their relationship,” Hansen said.
Though the mothers aren’t necessarily front and center (it’s still Chrystal and Stephine’s story), their storylines are more fleshed out this time around.
“They start out with a bit of cynicism, maybe, and they’re challenged. The whole process is about finding joy in the moment, the universe conspiring to bring you happiness as opposed to chaos,” Hansen said.
While the play is based in Saratoga Springs, with images of Saratoga Spa State Park, Yaddo and Congress Park projected in the background of some scenes, it also takes audiences to another dimension with some fantastical elements, including a wizard.
But he’s not like the kind one might find in “Harry Potter.”
“Although the wizard [does] a couple of tricks . . . and he makes a mean cupcake,” Hansen said.
One challenge with the play this time around is the space. The group is performing at St. Clement's School (231 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs) rather than the dance museum's Riggi Theater, where they first performed it.
“We’re dealing with a much larger [space]. So our challenge was making it more intimate. We have these screens on the side that direct the focus to a smaller space. We’re really using the front of the space, the proscenium. Then we have platforms actually coming down into the audience space so that we’re really getting into the audience,” Hansen said.
As for sets and special effects, which iTheatre specializes in, they’ll be using a mix of projections and fog machines to portray the familiar and the extraordinary.
“The projections help create the world of Saratoga. We have these images that we all know so well of the parks and even Yaddo rose garden. That’s juxtaposed with these auroras, these oceans of this other [dimension],” Hansen said.
The effects bring out the theme of light vs. dark in the play and touch on our power to choose one over the other.
“The magic really comes from the potential of the human being to express love and goodness and light, and share it with others,” Hansen said.
“Guardians of the Treasure”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: St.Clement's School, 231 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
TICKETS: $20 for adults, $10 for children
MORE INFO: itheatresaratoga.org