Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Staged Reading of Einstein's Dreams

In retrospect, I'm not sure I would have gone.
Staged Reading of 'Einstein's Dreams
March 14, 2006, 7:30 PM
First Parish Church
3 Church St. in Harvard Square
Cambridge, MA

Adaptation by David Alford and Brian Niece of the best-selling novel "Einstein's Dreams" by author and physicist Alan Lightman, Adjunct Professor of the Humanities at MIT. Directed by Jon Lipsky. the event is the inaugural event for the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT (CC@MIT), a collaboration between MIT and Underground Railway Theater aimed at developing new plays about science.

Cast includes Eric Rubbe, Debra Wise and John Sarrouf.

Post-performance panel discussion features Lightman, Debra Wise (Artistic Director of Underground Railway), and Alan Guth (V.F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at MIT)

For more information, see
It just wasn't that interesting. However, the performance was excellent:
  • Eric Rubee as Albert Einstein and Third Dreamer

  • John Sarrouf as Einstein's friend Michele Besso and Second Dreamer

  • Debra Wise as Typist and First Dreamer

  • Debbie Hazell as Stage Directions reader
But going by the post-performance discussion, everybody else enjoyed the contents of the play. Go figure.

By coincidence, Alan Lightman's other book A Sense of the Mysterious : Science and the Human Spirit is the selected reading for June at the Book Club for the Curious. I just hope it is better that the adaptation to this one.

Making 'Einstein's Dreams' come true
Collaborative flourishes at MIT
By Catherine Foster, Globe Staff | March 10, 2006

It took a bunch of scientists and playwrights to bring ''Einstein's Dreams" to MIT.

Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, a group that aims to have scientists and playwrights collaborate on the development of plays about science and technology, will present a staged reading on Monday of an adaptation of the best-selling novel "Einstein's Dreams," by physicist Alan Lightman, adjunct professor of the humanities at MIT.

Published in 1993, "Einstein's Dreams" is set in Berne, Switzerland, in 1905, just before Einstein completed his theory of relativity. The novel has been translated into 30 languages and adapted for theater and dance troupes an estimated 30 times.

Catalyst Collaborative has three artistic directors: Alan Brody, associate provost for the arts at MIT and a playwright; Debra Wise, artistic director of the Underground Railway Theater; and Jon Lipsky, an actor/director who will direct Wise, Eric Rubbe, and John Sarrouf in a dramatization by David Alford and Brian Niece.

"The novel lends itself so beautifully to ensemble productions, where artists imagine off the novel," Brody says by phone from his office. "It's fascinating, particularly in movement pieces, with how time works in the novel."

In the play, says Wise, "young Einstein is sitting at the patent office where he works. He tells his co-worker that in order to develop his new theory, he had to reconceive time. So the play moves back and forth in reality -- the patent office -- and into what the playwright and Alan Lightman call 'dreams of time.' "

Previous Catalyst Collaborative events include a symposium in 2002 featuring physicists, local theater artists, and the cast of the touring production of "Copenhagen"; a staged reading of Peter Parnell's play "QED" in 2002; and a reading of Brody's play "Small Infinities" in 2004.

"It became clear to us at MIT, as well as with Underground Railway, that there is a major trend now in plays about science," says Brody. "We started to investigate what that was about. It has to do with the way theater is always mirroring the culture at large. The more we saw how science and technology has permeated our lives, the more we felt the theater had to weigh in on this. This is where 'Copenhagen,' 'Proof,' and, prophetically before that, Brecht's 'The Life of Galileo' come in."

Catalyst Collaborative is an offshoot of another group of playwrights and MIT scientists who've been meeting monthly for the last three years to discuss how to convey ideas about science and technology through theater.

This "salon," as Wise calls it, is a high-powered group. The scientists include Jerome I. Friedman, a 1990 Nobel Laureate in physics, as well as cosmologist Alan H. Guth, theoretical physicist Robert L. Jaffe, biologist Nancy Hopkins, and physicist George Benedek. They're joined by playwrights Wise, Lipsky, Kate Snodgrass (artistic director of the Boston Playwrights' Theatre and a new Huntington Playwriting Fellow), and, occasionally, award-winning playwright Laura Harrington.

The reading of "Einstein's Dreams" is the inaugural event in a new collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Underground Railway Theater, a relationship that will be further enhanced when Underground Railway and the Nora Theatre Company move into their new joint theater home, the Central Square Theatre, tentatively scheduled for 2007. "Einstein's Dreams" is scheduled to be given a full production in the first season.

"Einstein's Dreams" will have two free staged readings: Monday at 7:30 p.m. at MIT, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Building 10, Room 250, Cambridge, 617-253-2341, and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Cambridge.