Scripted and invented almost entirely by students, this Calliope! production is a talent show set on Mars in 2525. A mad scientist misplaces the power source that controls the entire biosphere, and it’s up to the mutants and aliens to find the source and restore power.

Director Jerri Lines got inspired to do this show when she attended the Salida Middle School Talent Show. She told the students it could be set in any place at any time. Space was the first suggestion; then, it was narrowed to Mars in the year 2525.

All the characters are original settlers with mutations, Lines said. In the middle school cast there is a mutant mouse, mutant human fox, marshmallow alien and a robot. In the elementary school cast there is a love alien, an alien dog and two robots. “All the kids came up with their own characters, and the high school kids came up with their own dialogue,” Lines said.

This is not the first time a Calliope! cast has designed the outline of a show. The April production of Vaudeville was also scripted by the actors.

The 21 (give or take) Talent Show cast members will perform about 10 acts, Lines said. The Lobeck family will perform an act called “Glow with the Flow.” Joan Lobeck said it will feature light-up juggling and unicycle riding. The four elementary school-aged performers will be doing stand-up comedy. Each will take turns sharing family-friendly jokes that they made up or have heard. Several involve computers, but one of the funniest involves an atom.

Budding comedian Carson McConathy, 8, said the atom joke (which is also his favorite) came from a joke book. He plays a robot in the show. Choosing his character was a toss-up between a robot and a mutant. In the end, McConathy decided to be the robot because he knew that would mean “cool attachments” on his costume. “I want to be an actor when I grow up. I like being on stage and wearing costumes,” he said.

Ella Dawn Melia, 7, the only female in the grade-school cast, chose to be a “love alien.”

Her costume is spot-on. Melia wears a colorful, fuzzy hat with teeth that matches a fuzzy top and leg warmers. It’s colorful and soft for hugging. On top of her hat are heart antennae.

“(While) at school I just feel like I’m loved, and I just thought of it,” she said.

Melia explained her character is fueled by “meditation hugs.” So she’ll be giving out a lot of hugs on stage to keep her energy up.

Letting the students choose their own characters is effective because, as Lines said, “their imaginations are better than mine.”

The actors have been rehearsing in three separate groups for about five weeks. Lines said the goal is to get everyone together for a few rehearsals before show time Aug. 5.

Calliope! started almost 20 years ago in collaboration with the Salida SteamPlant with the mission of creating a youth theater program.

Run time will be a little under two hours. Tickets are $15 for adults and $3 for students and can be purchased at the door, the Salida Chamber of Commerce and the SteamPlant box office.

Calliope! Director Jerri Lines (right) and costume designer Bonnie Poser adjust Ella Dawn Melia’s costume during rehearsal. Calliope! Will stage its new production at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center (photo by Cailey McDermott).