by John McDonnell Tierney





EXTRAORDINARY HERO is a new work for the theater by composer/playwright John McDonnell Tierney based on "The Hero's Journey" and other works by philosopher Joseph Campbell. “The mark Hero’s Journey® is used under license (pending) from the Joseph Campbell Foundation (www.jcf.org).”This new work might be better described as a “play with songs” as opposed to a “musical” in the traditional sense. The term “Musical” or “Broadway Musical” carries with it a set of expectations: that the work contains engaging characters that sing and dance to appealing songs, and, that all of this should be entertaining. Well, we do think audiences will find our characters: Joseph (The Mentor); Sara (The Hero); Vox (The Herald); Bria, Aleeza, Dusty and Quest (The Allies), not only engaging but familiar because the “characters” emerge from deep within the human experience; they are, in fact, archetypes as described by Joseph Campbell. And, we immodestly suggest that the twelve original songs, based on contemporary styles and familiar forms, in our “Playa with Songs” are indeed appealing. And, if we do say so ourselves, we think audiences will be greatly entertained, engrossed, amused, occasionally terrified (“The Boogieman is real!”), but never bored. So, when we depart a tad from the traditional, we hope you will allow us some liberties.


EXTRAORDINARY HEROS: In common conceptions, “heroes” are anything but “ordinary,” that is defined as “normal, and commonplace.” Heroes are willing to rush into a burning building, jump into a raging river, or engage a terrorist wielding an AR-15 assault weapon to save a stranger thus, we submit, all heroes are “extra-ordinary.” Heroic action in the ordinary world is not commonplace, or normal, or ordinary...most people would not do these things when actually faced with dangerous situations.


But not all dangerous situations take place in the outer world; in fact, our minds are constant battlegrounds as we deal with the barrage of emotions the “real world” inflicts on us daily. And so, we ask our audiences to consider a different kind of hero, an otherwise “ordinary person” when terrorized by her deepest fears, anxieties, dreads and distresses, finds the courage to face them with the help of Joseph, The Mentor; Vox, The Herald and The Allies. All human beings, at one point or another, experience fear, anxiety, and dread, along with a cocktail of other distressing emotions. Many folks do not deal with these emotions in a healthy manner, often denying or suppressing them because they are just too painful to bear. It takes a lot of courage to face our inner demons, our personal Boogieman. It takes strength, bravery, resilience to endure the dangers of our inner world while still trying to make sense of the outer world.  In other words, it takes a “personal hero.”



THE MUSIC: Our score is heavily influenced by contemporary musical styles (pop, rock, country, etc.) while the orchestrations are expansive in the manner of “The Hollywood Soundstage Orchestra.” Each of the twelve songs in the show feature rememberable tunes, expressive lyrics and familiar forms while still surprising listeners with unexpected novelties.


THE SETTING: EXTRAORDINARY HERO is set in a very unusual setting.  Unlike most plays and musicals that are set in a specific place, “real” (In the Heights) or “fictional” (The Land of Oz), our drama is set in the dreams of the principle character, Sara. And, unlike most plays and musicals that are set in a specific time (Hamilton, The Sound of Music); ours is set at any time: yesterday, today or tomorrow.



The Hero’s Journey, aka “The Monomyth,” is a common story structure shared by cultures worldwide, in which a character ventures into dangerous territory to retrieve something they need. Facing conflict and adversity, the hero ultimately triumphs before returning home, transformed. “The Hero’s Journey” as described by Philosopher Joseph Campbell in 1949 involves  three "acts," subdivided into twelve "stages:"

  • The Departure Act: the Hero leaves the Ordinary World.
  • The Initiation Act: the Hero ventures into unknown territory (the " Special World ") and is birthed into a true champion through various trials and challenges.
  • The Return Act: the Hero returns in triumph.

This story structure has been adapted and expanded upon by numerous playwrights and appears in numerous plays and films. In our adaptation, our Hero, Sara, moves through the twelve stages of Campbell’s hero’s journey. Each stage is a “scene” with a dedicated song...thus: Twelve Stages, Twelve Scenes; Twelve Songs.


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