The Mount’s Theatre Lab production “Empty Space” is an original theatrical six-episode web series following a climate astronaut as she realizes the importance of colleagues, family, and spirit guides.

Mount St. Joseph News


The Mount’s Theatre Lab production “Empty Space” is an original theatrical six-episode web series following a climate astronaut as she realizes the importance of colleagues, family, and spirit guides. Written and produced by the Director of Theatre Arts Richard Buchanan, co-writer Rae Buchanan, copy editor and MSJ alum AJ Keith.


At the beginning of the summer, Buchanan and the Theatre Lab group began batting around some initial ideas of what they could do with their current circumstances. Zoom theatre had gained popularity as it was a simple way for those interested in theatre to enjoy a play or musical from the safety of their own home, but with every work meeting and class lecture, we attend, Zoom has begun to feel overused. Keeping this in mind, the Theatre Lab set out to find a new medium to use to safely continue what they love. This was when the group landed on the idea of writing, directing, and editing their own web series.


The SpaceX Dragon Launch, which took place in May, helped prompt a theme for “Empty Space” as Theatre Lab participants wanted to discuss the issue of isolation in a setting other than the current a pandemic. This series follows Commander Roberta “Robbie” Bottom, played by Allie Huston, as she seeks to find a solution to halt climate change under time constraints and deals with a difficult balance of isolation and caring for her mental and physical health while being the only person aboard her space station. Buchanan stated that he wanted to include a sense of pressure for Robbie to complete her climate change mission because she feels it is so important. He wanted to reflect a sense of the hustle culture we deal with today as we push ourselves beyond our limits because we feel that what we are doing is so important.


When asked what led to the storyline of Robbie finding a solution to climate change, Buchanan stated, “Personally, I think climate change is something we should be aware of as a society. I thought about a way we could make this both a dramatic and compelling story but also root some parts in reality because we have some very absurd comedic aspects, but we also want it to be serious. Climate change seemed to be more of a real and interesting threat than asteroids, which was more of a 90s trope.”


At the beginning of the semester, the Theatre Lab cast rehearsed, created their set, and immediately began filming to have the episodes out in a timely manner. The set that they have created for the space station is a 20-person tent that has been set up on the Mount’s main theatre stage. Since the theatre has not been used as frequently this semester, they have been able to leave the station up for the duration of their recording.  Right now, they are about a week and a half ahead of filming the episodes as they premiere.


Buchanan says that in comparison to in-person theatre shows, one of the difficulties of working under their current circumstances is that in theatre, you can see a scene immediately and critique parts that were good and parts that need some work. Since they are prerecording the series, some footage is not seen until several days after, and they must decide if they want to use the footage they have or want to bring the actors back in and refilm.



Commander Roberta Bottom (Allie Huston) and TP (Tim Zang - Puppeteer). Photo by Richard Buchanan


“I’m a theatre person, not a film person, and most of my students are as well,” he said. This is a very different medium because, in theatre, we rehearse for weeks, and then we share it. With this, we did one read-through and then we met and filmed it.”


When asked which episode he is most looking forward to, Buchanan says, “All of the first three episodes have very different tones, so I’m excited for people to get to see episode three. But then things will take sort of a turn. I think I’m really excited for episode six to get out because I think after that will be when I can get people’s response to it as a whole to see questions and comments.”


This series has taken a lot to set it into motion, Buchanan says. “I applaud the actors because they have done an excellent job, they’ve worked so hard and made this process a lot easier than it could have been,” he says.  


He also is grateful to everyone who used their creative and theatrical minds, especially AJ Keith, who helped format and make the show what it is.


“And finally, I want to say that I am grateful and thankful to everyone at MSJ for giving so much support and love on the project because it has been daunting as they have been scared and uncertain of how it was going to go,” he says.


If you are interested in watching “Empty Space” to support the Theatre Lab group, you can access all episodes on their Facebook page or their YouTube channel.