Jason Neulander’s inventive sci-fi whodunit is at Merrilll Auditorium for one show Thursday.

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to an artist is to fail.

Jason Neulander is a good example.

Many years ago, just out of college and soon after he founded the Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, Texas, he developed a successful radio play called “The Intergalactic Nemesis.”

It was meant to be a one-off show, a single run at the local theater and nothing more. It took on a life of its own, and Neulander brought it back every few years and toured it regionally.

New York producers took notice. Neulander was invited to New York, where he was to present his idea for turning his little radio play into a full-fledged Broadway production. He left his job with the Austin theater company with visions of million-dollar budgets, regional tours and maybe a Tony Award or two.

The problem is, when he showed up in New York to make his pitch, the producer who was most interested failed to show. Neulander and his team were stood up. “I put all my eggs in the Intergalactic Broadway basket,” he said.

Several years later, Neulander’s vision remains intact, and he is standing tall. He brings the national tour of his show to Portland on Thursday for a performance at Merrill Auditorium that is presented by Portland Ovations.

Despite the cold shoulder from Broadway, “The Intergalactic Nemesis” has soared to success.

It is one of the more unusual theatrical productions to hit Portland in many years. Part radio play, part live-action graphic novel and sci-fi movie, it combines the visual medium of comic books with radio sound effects and stage performance.

It involves screen projections, as actors voice all the characters. A pianist performs the soundtrack, and a sound-effects specialist adds texture and nuance.

The story is set in Romania in 1933, in the Carpathian Mountains. Reporter Molly Sloan and her assistant meet with an informant, who during the course of their conversation is killed.

Molly and her assistant flee, aided by a mysterious stranger.

As the play unfolds, they research their informant’s death. There are heroes, villains and narrow escapes, with trips to the stars and wars between an alien race and a planet of robots.

Neulander premiered this version of the show in fall 2010. He sold 2,200 tickets to the premiere, and then got in front of arts presenters at a national conference.

“I was hoping to get five venues interested and to maybe sell the show to two of them,” Neulander said.

“Three days later, I walked out of that conference with the business cards of 33 venues and have not looked back.”

Within the performing arts world, “The Intergalactic Nemesis” is considered something of a phenomena. It had instant success nationally, and has been touring consistently for three years.

He’s recently handed over management duties to expand bookings and assist with promotion.

Neulander has since developed two additional shows, “Robot Planet Rising” and “Twin Infinity.” The second is touring, and the third will hit the road in the fall.

He’s also developing a broadcast-quality video.

Neulander describes his audience as “nerd-culture hipsters, ages 25 to 40. When we play on college campuses, we draw a younger crowd. We see a lot of families too, folks who grew up on ‘Star Wars’ who now have kids who are the right age for that experience.” 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes