After Year Filled with Setbacks, BROS Returns with ‘The Terrible Secret of Lunastus’

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A shot from a rehearsal for “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus.” Photo by Sean J. McCormick.

Baltimore’s dedicated rock opera ensemble is making a triumphant return from a godawful year next month with a spirited revival of its 2011 space adventure-comedy, “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus.”

The play centers on four astronauts and their robot who seek a new home for humankind, threatened with extinction by the moon’s impending fall from orbit. Set in the “near future” and backed by a soundtrack of original, ‘70s-style classic rock songs, BROS promises a shinier, more fleshed-out version of the show it first performed at the Autograph Playhouse six years ago.

Beyond the necessity of having its space back for a half-year or so – BROS and dozens of others were evicted from the Bell Foundry building in December because of code violations – writer and director Chuck Green told Baltimore Fishbowl the troupe has been benefitted immensely from hindsight.

“This is a show that looks back on itself like an awkward yearbook photo from six years ago and has a lot to prove,” Green wrote in an email.

Among the changes he highlighted for the redux version: new costumes and set design with richer back stories, a redone script with more “raw nerve” and less parody, and increased emphasis on an original aesthetic than to paying homage to other works, as in 2011.

“It’s a little more of a standalone sci-fi story now,” he said. “But it still has the alien sex scene, don’t worry.”

They also had lots of time to prepare, and many more volunteers than last time around. Upon only getting back into the first floor of the Bell Foundry in February, BROS had to push back its spring production of “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus” to this fall. But Green says those added months, along with the increased “expectation of quality” compared to years earlier, have made for an improved show.

While the Bell Foundry eviction was by far BROS’ biggest challenge of the last year, the DIY collective of musicians and actors has faced additional obstacles in 2017. There was the January burglary of its temporarily shuttered space, in which thousands of dollars’ worth of tools were stolen, as well as the temporary shuttering of the BROS band’s former rented rehearsal space at Studio 14 in West Baltimore, which occurred that same month.

Even though BROS members were the only artists to receive a city permit to return to the Bell Foundry in mid-February, the headaches didn’t end. For one, the owner of the building decided to put it on the market for $1 million in April. (No takers, just yet.) And there was the resulting tagging of the building by an activist who spray-painted ‘$HAME 100’ on the exterior – a brash, anti-establishment statement by the artist, but little more than a giant blemish to BROS, which scrubbed it off.

Amid this year’s roller coaster, BROS has been fundraising to build a “paradise” the group can call its own. The ideal space would be BROS-owned and contain a concert hall, front and back houses, a workshop, administrative offices, storage and room for a potential partner organization. The group launched the effort in December, targeting a $75,000 goal to fund renovations and general operations. Through Monday afternoon, the Crowdrise campaign has raised just over $47,000.

BROS plans to start moving out of the Bell Foundry after its four-weekend run of “The Terrible Secret of Lunastus,” which concludes in October. Artistic director Aran Keating said in an email that he doesn’t have any big announcements about where they will go next.

However, he did note, “we are making great headway with the help of many different parties, especially Neighborhood Design Center,” a nonprofit that collaborates with government agencies and other groups on community planning and design initiatives.

It’s going to happen, Keating said, but “unfortunately everything takes longer than we’d like, so I’m working on my deep-breathing exercises and trying to remember that we’re committing to something really huge and anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

“The Terrible Secret of Lunastus” runs every weekend from Friday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Oct. 8, at Zion Lutheran Church downtown. Click here for more information, or to purchase tickets (starting at $20).

Ethan McLeod
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