Marvel’s Heroes Take Center Stage

Avengers, assemble — and break a leg! Marvel’s mighty heroes are the stars of a new series of educational one-act stage plays intended for a high school audience. Called Marvel Spotlight, the plays focus on such themes as responsibility, self-image and reacting to change. Thor, Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel will be at the forefront of the inaugural set of plays, which will be offered for licensed performances and whose scripts will be available for retail purchase.

“Hammered: A Thor & Loki Play,” by Christian Borle, depicts the squabbling brothers — the Norse gods of thunder and mischief — competing to impress their parents. “Squirrel Girl Goes to College: A Squirrel Girl Play,” by Karen Zacarías, has the title heroine, who has all the powers of a squirrel and a girl, trying to reinvent herself at a new school. “Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play,” by Masi Asare, is about accepting one’s imperfections.

Ms. Marvel is secretly Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City who often struggles with assimilation, her tradition-bound parents, completing homework and fighting for justice. “When I began working on the play, I had only a little knowledge about Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel,” Asare wrote in an email. “I loved the idea of a superhero who is a brown girl from an immigrant background (like me), someone who wants to do good in the world, but isn’t always sure how to do it. So she’s kind of awkward and not-smooth and has her share of mishaps, but she still persists,” she said.

Asare said her own roots helped her relate to the hero. Her father’s side of the family is from Ghana, while her mother comes from a white, working-class background and grew up in California. “It’s so exciting to see more and more of these kinds of stories show up in popular culture and on the stage, because when I was growing up they were few and hard to find,” she said.

One of the challenges of writing Ms. Marvel for the stage was thinking about how to convey her power to change her shape and shrink and grow. “In the pilot productions, the staging was really inventive in how different groups chose to show Kamala’s stretchy super powers: all kinds of things from shadow puppetry to inflatable boxing gloves, clown shoes and ribbon or fabric for long arms and legs,” Asare wrote. “That stuff is fun and hopefully provides opportunities for theatrical magic but what people are responding to the most is Kamala’s journey as a character in the play.”

Marvel Spotlight is a partnership between Marvel Entertainment and Samuel French, a publisher of American and British play scripts that was acquired last year by Concord Music to move into the theater business. The Marvel Spotlight plays were created with a focus on educational institutions and are priced accordingly: license fees are $75 per performance for one play or $125 per performance for two or more. Copies of the plays, with covers by Erica Henderson, will be available for $9.95 each.

George Gustines is a senior editor. He began writing about the comic book industry in 2002. @georgegustines Facebook

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