Professor Marvin Carlson, Distinguished Professor, Department
Sept. 8: Course Overview
Monday, Sept. 15: Pre 19th century plays: Johnson, The Alchemist, Lyly, Gallathea, Marlowe, Dr. Faustus
Monday, Sept. 22: Turn of the century plays: Ibsen, Enemy of the People, Shaw, The Doctor’s Dilemma
Monday, Sept. 29: Plays of the 1920s and 1930s: Witkiewicz, Tumor Brainowicz, Capek, R.U.R., Brecht, Galileo
Tuesday, Oct. 7: The new physics and the atom bomb I: Frayn, Copenhagen
CLASSROOM GUEST: Jennifer Uphoff Gray: Associate Director, National Touring Company of Copenhagen
Monday, Oct. 20: The new physics and the atom bomb II: Flanagan, E=mc^2, Durrenmatt, The Physicists, Kipphardt, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer
COURSE SUPPLEMENT: Science as Theater - Theater as
Science, Lecture by Dr. Harry Lustig, 6 pm, Room 4102, The Science
Monday, Oct. 27: Plays about physicist Richard Feynman: Parnell, “QED”, Giron, Moving Bodies
COURSE SUPPLEMENT: The one-man play Feynman Lives!
6 pm, Elebash Recital Hall
Monday, Nov. 3: Plays about biology and ethics: Clyman, The Secret Order, Churchill, A Number, Wertennbaker, After Darwin
COURSE SUPPLEMENT: A staged reading of the play promises.com,
7 pm, Elebash Recital Hall
CLASSROOM GUEST: Matthews Wells, Author of Schrödinger’s Girlfriend
Monday, Nov. 17: Plays written by scientists: Djerassi and Hoffmann, Oxygen, Djerassi, An Immaculate Misconception
CLASSROOM GUEST: Lou Massa, Professor of Chemistry and
Physics, Hunter College, Host of the program, Science and the Written
Word, Tuesdays on CUNY TV
CLASSROOM GUESTS: Joshua Rosenblum and Joanne Sydney Lessner, music, book and lyrics
Monday, Dec. 1: Stoppard: Hapgood and Arcadia
COURSE SUPPLEMENT: Look Up! "Chaos" comes to
New York, 6 pm, Elebash Recital Hall
Monday, Dec. 8: Plays about women scientists: Fenwick, Pierre and Marie: Love and Chemistry, Friedman, Remembering Miss Meitner, Nachtmann, Thread of Life
COURSE SUPPLEMENT: A staged reading of the play Pierre
and Marie: Love and Chemistry. 6 pm
CLASSROOM GUESTS: J. Holtham, Program Director, EST, DeLora Whitney, Associate Program Director, EST. Also two playwrights who have had support for their plays by EST, Robert Clyman, The Secret Order, and Arthur Giron, Moving Bodies.
Monday, Dec. 22: Exam week
Harry Lustig, Adjunct Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Brian B. Schwartz, Professor of Physics and VP for Research
and Sponsored Programs
This list is inclusive in two ways. Plays about medicine and technology have been incorporated along with those about basic science, and we have been expansive about what in the content or treatment qualifies a work as a science play. There is no agreement about definition. Some would restrict the designation to plays in which there is a presentation of scientific ideas, or where at least the fact that a protagonist is a scientist (rather than, say, any dysfunctional individual) is important. Others would admit any work that deals with the consequences of scientific research or invention, or which includes a scientist among the cast of characters. We have tended to adopt the latter view. We make no claim that the list is complete; in fact it almost certainly isn’t. Readers who know of plays that are not on the list are invited to communicate with one of the compilers, whose e-mail addresses are given at the end.
Pre-Nineteenth Century Plays
Aristophanes. Clouds. 423 BCE. Aristophanes ridicules the work of the
“rank pedants, those palefaced, barefoot vagabonds in the academy,”
occupied with research in a variety of subjects, science among them.
Jonson, Ben. The Alchemist. (1610). Lampoons the practitioners of science
and pseudo-science as jargon-babbling rogues, and their willing dupes.
Marlowe, Christopher. Dr. Faustus. (1604). This play features a scientist
who strikes a bargain with the devil and meets a horrible demise as a
result of his lust for knowledge.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust. (1808 [part 1], 1831 [part 2]). A
scientist and scholar has grown weary of his learning and, aided by a
powerful accomplice, regains his youth and pursues pleasure, with mixed
Shadwell, Thomas. The Virtuoso. (1676). This is the first drama in which
a major character is clearly recognizable as a scientist. It is a devastating
portrait; the demonstrations and explanations of the practice of science
Brieux, Eugene. Les Avaris. (1909) Controversial play dealing with syphilis
Capek, Karel. R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). (1921). The
devastating effect of robots on society.
Durrenmatt, Friedrich. The Physicists. (1962). Warns of the apocalyptic
results of modern physics put into the wrong hands, using the Möbius
strip as a central image.
Flanagan, Hallie. [a.k.a. Hallie Ferguson Flanagan Davis]. E=mc2 . (1948). Part allegory and part documentary, the play features a character called Atom and a Professor who explains the physics the playwright thinks that the audience needs to know.
Flanagan, Hallie. E=mc2: A Living Newspaper About the Atomic Age . New York: Samuel French, 1948.
Flanagan, Hallie. Spirochete. (1938) The epic history of syphilis from
its origins to
Glaspell, Susan. The Verge. (1921) A female botanist creates new plants
in all-consuming experiments that bring her into conflict with her family.
Gorky, Maksim [a.k.a. Maxim Gorki]. The Children of the Sun. (1905; translation
by Stephen Mulrine, 1999). About a chemist who is an idealist wanting
to be left alone, is uninterested in the realities around him and unsympathetic
to the claim that he should serve society.
Ibsen, Henrik. An Enemy of the People. (1882). A doctor discovers dangerous
bacteria in his town’s spa waters, but instead of appreciation he
meets the townspeople’s wrath as politics trumps science.
Jahnn, Hans Henny. Triimmer des Gewissens (Der staubige Regenbogen)/The
Lawrence, Jerome and Robert E. Lee. Inherit the Wind. (1955). About the
Scopes trial pitting Darwin’s theory of evolution against the Bible.
Mabon Mines. Dead End Kids. (1980) According to Natalie Crohn Schmitt,
the production is about the discovery and uses of radiation... [andi examined
our fascination with transformation, beginning with our effort to turn
base metal into gold and ending with our success in turning atoms into
bombs. (Natalie C. Schmitt, Actors and Onlookers, 122-3)
MacLeish, Archibald. Heracles. (a.k.a. Herakles). (1965). The protagonist,
a scientist at the zenith of his career, has just been awarded a Nobel
Prize. The adulation pleases him, but he is also aware of the futility
and costs of contemporary scientific discovery.
Morgan, Charles. The Burning Glass. (1953). One of many post-atomic plays
in which the scientist is an individual who poses a grave threat to humanity.
Here, a weather control machine would allow the sun’s radiation
to be fatally concentrated on any specific spot on earth.
Saul, Oscar and H.R. Hays. Medicine Show. (1940) A Living Newspaper revealing
Sinclair, Upton. A Giant’s Strength. (1948) A play about atomic
physicist Barry Harding.
Dramas and Comedies
Auburn, David. Proof. (2000). A young, insecure, and somewhat enigmatic
female mathematics student, and not her demented mathematical genius of
a father, turns out to have solved a fiendishly difficult theorem.
Barrow, John. Infinities. (2002). Five dramatic scenes about the concept of infinity, including the dispute between Cantor and Kronecker about its nature, a famous problem of Hilbert, and the vicissitudes of living forever.
Berger, Glen. Great Men of Science, Nos. 21 and 22. (1998). Set in Paris in 1793-1794 during the Reign of Terror, it examines the ideals of the Enlightenment scientist when faced with political and social upheaval.
Bernstein, Elsa. Ddmmerung: Schauspiel infUnfAkten (Twilight: A Drama
in Five Acts)
Brook, Peter and Marie-Hélène Estienne. The Man Who/L’Homme Qui. (2002). A “theatrical research play” based on the Oliver Sacks story The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. First produced in 1994 at the Cottesloe Theatre, National Theatre, London.
Burns, Elizabeth. Autodestruct: The Ultimate Cure for Cancer. (2001). A scientist clones his way to immortality, but at what price?
Cheng, Kipp Erante. Einstein’s Dreams. (2004?). An adaptation of Alan Lightman’s novel which supposes that Einstein’s dreams informed his inspiration for his theories of time, and takes a surreal look into his creative impulses. Time is measured in images with actors soliloquizing on its nature.
Churchill, Caryl. A Number. (2002). A father confronts three of his adult
sons, two of whom are clones of the first. Churchill uses the scientific
possibility of cloning to address the question of where personality comes
from, nature or nurture.
Clark, Ron. Pierre and Marie.
Clyman, Robert. The Secret Order. (1999-2000). About the pressures threatening to destroy a young scientist.
Cook, Peter and William Lanouette. Uranium + Peaches. (2004). In a fateful confrontation between the physicist Leo Szilard and James Burns, President Harry Truman’s mentor, science battles politics in a battle against the corruption of human ingenuity.
Congdon, Constance. No Mercy. (1994). About the first atomic bomb test
and the men involved in the nuclear weapons program.
Daisey, Mike. Monopoly. (2005). The play explores the warped genius of physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla and his war with Thomas Edison over electricity – alternating current versus direct current – a battle that etched itself into the streets of New York City. The thread loops and whorls around the Microsoft historic antitrust lawsuit, the checkered history of the game Monopoly, and the story of the retail chain Wal-Mart.
D’Andrea, Paul and John Klein. The Einstein Project. (1985). The play’s construction is non-linear, with many short scenes cross-cutting between different time periods. It begins with the explosion of the atomic bomb, which Einstein had urged President Roosevelt to build, and flashes back to Einstein’s stint as a clerk in the Swiss patent office and his arguments with Fritz Haber during World War I about pacifism. D’Andrea, Paul and Jon Klein. The Einstein Project. New York: Dramatists Play Service, [1985?].
Davis, Allen. Red Pumps at Ground Zero. (2002). The protagonists are Latina twin sisters. One is a temporary office worker in the World Trade Center and the other is a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of Chicago.
Doxiadis, Apostolos. Incompletenes: A Play and a Theorem. (2004) The
final days of Kurt Godel in the hospital when he is refusing to eat and
is challenged by a nutritionist who attempts to apply his own teachings
on logic to persuade him to eat; he is also visited by the vision of mathematician
Djerassi, Carl. An Immaculate Misconception. (2001). A play by the inventor
of the birth control pill about sex in the age of fertility treatments.
Djerassi, Carl. Calculus. (2003). Newton and the mathematician Leibnitz
engage in a fierce priority struggle to determine who deserves the title
of inventor of the calculus. The play concentrates on the peak of the
struggle when, in 1712, the Royal Society convened a committee to decide
the matter. First produced at the New End Theatre, London by Andy Jordan
Productions. There is also a musical version, music by Werner Schulze,
first produced in 2005 at the Zurich Opera.
Dunn, Nell. Cancer Tales. (2001) Verbatim stories of five women with
Edwards, Joseph B. The Day Einstein Died. (2004). The play takes place on April 18, 1955, the day the protagonist died in Princeton, New Jersey. Another character is the actor and social activist Paul Robeson. He gives fire to the story as he engages his friend Einstein in several controversies in which he played so prominent a role, particularly the struggle for equality of black people and the settlement of the displaced Jews of Europe.
Feldshuh, David. Miss Evers’ Boys. (1990). A story of the infamous Tuskegee experiment. During forty years, between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted studies of 399 black men who had syphilis. The men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers, were not told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Videotaped by The New York Public Library's Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at Stamford Theatre Works, Stamford, Conn., March 16, 1998. Miss Evers' Boys [videorecording] / Stamford Theatre Works, Steve Karp, producing director, Jane Desy, general manager, presents ; [written] by David Feldshuh ; directed by Lorna Littleway ; [video prod. company] Character Generators, Inc. ; [video producer] Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, Betty L. Corwin, director. Available to qualified researchers only. Housed at the New York Public Library Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, Call No. NCOV 2166.
Fenwick, Jean-Noel. Les Palmes de M. Schutz/Pierre and Marie. (2002). In a small laboratory in Paris in the 1800’s, Pierre and Marie Curie discover uranium, radium, and love. (English adaptation by Ron Clark). Fenwick, Jean-Noel. Les Palmes de M. Schutz: Roman. Paris: L’Archipel, 1997.
Flood, David H. and Rhonda L. Soricelli. The Seventh Chair: An Audience
Frontczak, Susan Marie. Manya. (2002?) One-woman show about Marie Curie.
Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. (1998, 2000). Reenacts three plausible versions
of the 1941 visit of Werner Heisenberg to his mentor and friend Niels
Bohr in Nazi-occupied Denmark and applies the uncertainty principle to
human knowledge and behavior.
Friedman, Robert Marc. Remembering Miss Meitner. (2002). The co-discoverer and explicator of nuclear fission confronts Otto Hahn, who could have helped her to receive a share of his Nobel prize and Manne Siegbahn, who, while providing a refuge for her in his Swedish laboratory, did not provide her with the wherewithal for continuing her research.
Friel, Brian. Molly Sweeney. (1994). Based on neurologist Oliver Sack’s
short story about a blind woman given an operation and the surprising
and painful consequences of gaining her sight.
Frontczak, Susan Marie. Manya. (2002). One-woman show about Marie Curie.
Furse, Anna. Yerma’s Eggs. (2003) Performance piece exploring infertility,
Giron, Arthur. Moving Bodies. (1999-2000). Dramatizes the biography and contributions of the great, idiosyncratic physicist Richard Feynman, including his role in the building of the atomic bomb and the explanation of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Produced at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York.
Godfrey, Paul. The Blue Ball. (1995). About the space program.
Groff, Rinne. The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem. (2000). A bunch of mathematicians at a British seaside resort in 1911 are busy digging for the proof that the number 2 to the 67th power minus 1 is not a prime number after all. Central to the plot is that the older we get, the longer we have to wait between prime numbers.
Gunderson, Lauren. Background. (2002). The physicists Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman deduced the existence of Cosmic Background Radiation in 1948. But few observers looked for it and it was only found accidentally in 1965. Alpher’s life and lack of recognition and the history of cosmology are recounted going backwards in time, illuminating both.
Gunderson, Lauren. Leap. (2002). Portrays Newton at the height of his creativity, when in the course of two years he invents calculus and develops the laws and an understanding of gravity, messengers engage Newton and inspire his brilliance.
Gunderson, Lauren. Wide World. (2004). Based on the meeting in 1804 of two fascinating men – Thomas Jefferson and the world renowned scientist, explorer and statesman Alexander von Humboldt.
Gunderson, Lauren. Mass. (2005). A one-woman show about Albert and Mileva Einstein’s child born out of wedlock and lost to history. It uses ideas of special relativity and Brownian motion and even some early aspects of quantum mechanics to describe Lieserl’s fictional journey to find and recognize her famous father.
Gutman, Les. Hypatia or The Divine Algebra. (2000). The 5th century mathematician, philosopher and inventor is considered so dangerous that Christian monks find it necessary to drag her through the streets of Alexandria and then to dismember and burn her body. The play constructs an imaginary trajectory from that spectacle through 8th century Byzantium and on to the early 20th century.
Hampton, Christopher. The Talking Cure. (2002). About the relationship
between Freud and Jung.
Harrison, Tony. Square Rounds. (1992) The story of Fritz Haber, the chemist
Hoar, Stuart. Rutherford. (2000). A play about Ernest Rutherford, the great physicist from New Zealand. The play focuses on the enigma that was Rutherford, follows his obsession with science and probes his personal relationships with his wife Mary, daughter Eileen, and friend and colleague, Piotr Kapitza.
Horovitz, Israel. Promises.com. (2003). Set in the world of chemistry research, this drama engages questions of love, integrity, promises, and compromise.
Hunter, Maureen. Transit of Venus. (1992). In France, at a time when society was rapidly expanding its knowledge of the earth and the cosmos, an ambitious astronomer and the women who love him exemplify the conflicting needs of men and women. Hunter, Maureen. Transit of Venus: A Play. Winnipeg: Blizzard Pub., 1992.
Irvine, Todd. Notes on the Uncertainty Principle. (1998).
Johns, Ariana. Neutrino. (2001). A chance meeting on a train between a wannabe stand-up comedian and a manic-depressive librarian and another story about a gay woman bringing her girlfriend home to meet her parents. Intercut with a series of short scenes is an increasingly quirky lecture on particle physics, delivered by a crazed lecturer whose ideas become more and more bizarre and mystical.
Johnson, Terry. Insignificance. (1982). Imagines a meeting between Albert
Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe DiMaggio in a hotel room.
Jones, Charlotte. Humble Boy. (2002). A neurotic fictional astrophysicist
in a dysfunctional family tries to create a “theory of everything”
out of string theory and general relativity.
Kipphardt, Heinar. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. (1964, translator
Ruth Speirs). This quasi-documentary play is based on the verbatim text
of the 1954 hearings regarding Oppenheimer’s security clearance,
although the closing speech is not what Oppenheimer said, but what the
author wishes he had said.
Kopit, Arthur. Y2K. (a.k.a. Year 2000). (1999). Deals with the threats
to our privacy when computer hackers invade our lives via the Internet.
Kushner, Tony. Angels in America. (1991) Although not thought of as first
and foremost a science play, it was one of the first plays to deal in
depth with the science and medical
Lavik, Em. Galileo Walking Among the Stars. (2004) Written by an assistant
Murakami, Theater de
Peyret, Jean-Francois and Alain Prochiantz. Des Chim~res en automne,
ou l?impromptu de Chaillot. (2003) A three-hander contemplating the differences
and similarities between humans and apes, with Darwin and Kafka as its
motivating and interconnected forces.
Magnus, Bryn. World Set Free. (2002). The interactions of urban black teenagers with Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard and other scientists who, at the time, in 1942, were producing the first nuclear chain reaction in the pile under Stagg Field at the University of Chicago.
Mamet, David. The Water Engine. (1977). An inventor manages to remove
the H from H2O and invents an engine that uses plain distilled water as
Martin, Steve. Picasso at the Lapin Agile. (1996). A farcical comedy
that imagines a meeting between Picasso and Einstein in a café
McGrath, Tom. Safe Delivery. (1999). Set at the cutting edge of medicine, the play makes the point that science and scientists are not as pure as we have been led to believe.
Medley, Cassandra. Relativity. (2003). Race, power and professionalism collide in this play. Should a young African-American genetic researcher support her famous activist mother, who promotes a theory that blacks are genetically superior to whites?
Miyagawa, Chiori and James Lattis. Comet Hunter. (2003) Explores the life of 18th century German astronomer Caroline Herschel, the first woman to identify a comet, and her brother William, the famous astronomer and identifier of the planet Uranus.
Mullin, Paul. Louis Slotin Sonata. (2001). A flamboyant and emotional treatment of a real accident caused by a real scientist at Los Alamos and an indictment of the scientists who built the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan.
Nachtmann, Rita. Thread of Life. (2003). The role of Rosalind Franklin in the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Parnell, Peter. QED. (2001). About Richard Feynman, the celebrated (and
sometimes self-celebrating) Nobel prize-winning physicist. What we get
in this almost one-man show-Feynman is impersonated by Alan Alda –
is part biography and part physics lesson. Inspired by the writings of
Richard Feynman and Ralph Leighton’s Tuva or bust! Includes a foreword
by Alan Alda.
Parker, Norman. Feynman Lives! A one-man tribute to the brilliant and irrepressible physicist Richard Feynman, who won a Nobel prize, kept people awake by playing bongo drums, and wrote a best seller.
Penniston, Penny. Now Then Again. (2005). A nerdy and neurotic, but brilliant theoretical physics post-doc, Henry, tries to persuade an extraordinarily bright and precocious physics undergraduate, Ginny, to stay on at the university and work with him. However Penny marries a dull and conventional long time friend from her hometown and they return to South Carolina where she will live out her life as a genteel housewife. The second act replays much of the first, but backwards, with ever-greater departures from the original.
Perkowitz, Sidney. Friedmann’s Balloon. A play about Russian scientist Alexander Friedmann who challenged theories of Albert Einstein, but was also an ace World War I bombardier and a great balloonist.
Perkowitz, Sidney. Glory Enough. A dramatization of the British physicist Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA in the late 1950’s. That discovery earned a Nobel prize for three men, but little glory for Franklin. The play tells of this injustice, mingled with snapshots of her brief life (she died at 37) and raises questions about scientific ethics and male views of women in science.
Pinner, David. Newton’s Hooke. (2003) A play based on the lives
and politics of those key figures of the Royal Society, Newton and Hooke,
who helped to shape the institution as well as the science of physics.
Reich, Steve and Beryl Korot. Three Tales. (2002) A multimedia collaboration, consisting of three sequences for live instrumentalists, singers, and video projection, amounting to a parable of man’s Faustian bargain with technology (M. Billington in the Guardian, 9/19/02).
Reingold, Jaquelyn. String Fever. (2003). In this comedy, which starred
Cynthia Nixon and Evan Handler Off-Broadway, Lily juggles the big issues:
turning forty, artificial insemination and the elusive scientific Theory
of Everything. Lily's world includes an Icelandic comedian, her wisecracking
best friend, a cat-loving physicist, her no-longer-suicidal father and
an ex-boyfriend who carries around a chair.
Shaw, Jane Catherine. The Lone Runner: The Mythical Life Journey of Nikola Tesla. (1999). A puppet melodrama about a pioneer in electrical engineering whose name has been obscured by the achievements of Marconi and Westinghouse. The author uses excerpts from Faust to lend lyrical intensity to Tesla’s obsessive search for immortality through his most important work, the development of alternating electrical current.
Sherman, Jonathan Marc. Evolution. (1998). A morality play about an academic studying Charles Darwin who is offered a job in the entertainment industry. The World Premiere took place at the 1998 Williamstown Theatre Festival.
Simms, Willard. Einstein, A Stage Portrait. (1984). A one-man show about Albert Einstein.
Smith, Anna Deavere. Untitled. (2000). A one-woman show about doctors, patients and their narratives.
Singer, Elyse. Frequency Hopping. In 1949, Hedy Lamarr, the “most beautiful woman in the world” and the composer George Antheil, the “bad boy of music,” met at a Hollywood dinner party. Two years later, they received a patent for an invention of a model of wireless communication. Based on the story of their extraordinary collaboration and friendship, the author has written a darkly comic play about connecting with another person who operates at the same frequency.
Speier, Susanna. Calabi Yau. (2002). A “string-theory” comedy in which New York subway workers try to build a particle accelerator in abandoned subway tunnels.
Stanley, Jeffrey. Tesla’s Letters. (2003). The electrical engineer
Tesla’s use of a rotating electromagnetic field brought great advances
to the use of electrical power. In 1997, undaunted by the war between
Serbs and Croats, a twenty-seven year old American graduate student arrives
at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade to look at Tesla’s letters. The
museum’s administrator has other plans for her. Produced in 1999
at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York.
Stephenson, Shelagh. An Experiment with an Air Pump. (1999). About Peter
Mark Roget and medical experimentation’s ethical dimensions. Videotaped
by The New York Public Library's Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at Manhattan
Theatre Club, City Center Stage I, New York, N.Y., Dec. 10, 1999. Videotape
viewing restricted to qualified researchers. Stephenson, Shelagh. An Experiment
with an Air Pump [videorecording]. Performance director, Doug Hughes.
Video Director, Penny Ward. Housed at the New York Public Library Performing
Arts Library, Call No. NCOV 2377. Copy of program also available.
Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. (1993). Chaos theory, landscape gardening and
literary history in a country house in England, alternating contemporary
with 18th century scenes.
Stoppard, Tom. Galileo. (1970). Unpublished play that challenges Brecht’s Galileo.
Stoppard, Tom. Hapgood. (1988). Spy games interwoven with Heisenberg’s
Uncertainty Principle and other aspects of Quantum Mechanics.
Théâtre de Complicité. Mnemonic. (1999). Devised
by the company, it is a co-production of Théâtre de Complicité
and the Salzburger Festpiele. This piece is about memory, connection,
and evolution, with the Iceman as its starting point.
Thiessen, Vern. Einstein’s Gift. (2003). A presentation of the
lifework of Fritz Haber, a renowned, patriotic German-Jewish chemist,
set against the rise and fall of Germany at the turn of the 20th century
and the, for Haber, disastrous rise of Hitler’s Third Reich. The
play highlights the story of Haber’s relationship with Albert Einstein.
Weliman, Mac. Hypatia, or The Divine Algebra. (2000). Hypatia, the 5th
Wertenbaker, Timberlake. After Darwin. (1998). Two present-day actors
put on a play about Darwin and the captain of the Beagle. The action alternates
between the present and the past, exploring the parallel between biological
and social Darwinism. Wertenbaker, Timberlake. After Darwin. London: Faber
and Faber, 1998.
Wesker, Arnold. Longitude. (2002). Based on the book Longitude by Dava Sobel. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors had frequently been lost at sea. John Harrison dared to imagine a mechanical solution – a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had been able to do on land. The play shows Harrison’s life as undergoing a series of body blows at a time when science, engineering and manufacturing are on the brink of the Industrial Revolution. Commissioned play: written in 2002; scheduled to be performed October 12, 2005 at the Greenwich Theatre, dir. Fiona Laird.
Whittell, Crispin. Darwin in Malibu. (2003). Charles Darwin has wound
up in a beach house overlooking the Pacific with a girl young enough to
be his daughter. Believing that the heated debate about the origin of
species is far behind him, Darwin now finds guidance from tabloid horoscopes
and trashy beach reading. But when his old friend Thomas Huxley washes
up on the beach with the bishop of Oxford, he finds himself entangled
in a life and death comedy about God, science, love, loss and the sex
life of barnacles.
Whitemore, Hugh. Breaking the Code. (1986) A play about code-breaker Turing and Enigma during World War II.
Wilson, Lanford. The Mound Builders. (1986). Explores the world of archeology
and how it relates to contemporary life.
Wilson, Lanford. Rain Dance. (2003). Set in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1945, on the eve of the birth of the atomic bomb. In the tranquil beauty of the desert, four individuals involved in the historic Manhattan Project count down to its inevitable conclusion. As the culmination of their work approaches, each wrestles with the weight of responsibility for an event that will change the world forever. Videotaped at Signature Theatre Company, on June 20, 2003. Wilson, Lanford. Rain Dance [videorecording], directed by Guy Sanville. Video director: Penny Ward. Video Producer: Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, Patrick Hoffman, director. Videotape restricted to qualified researchers and housed at the New York Public Library’s Billy Rose Theatre Collection, Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, Call No. NCOV 2736.
Wilson, Snoo. Darwin’s Flood. (1994) Darwin, Nietzsche, Jesus and Mary Magdalene meet and match wits.
Biospheria. (2001). An opera by Steven Ausbury and Anthony Burr, based on aspects of the unsuccessful environmentalist experiment at Biosphere 2, a 200 million dollar greenhouse erected north of Tucson in the early 1990’s.
Defenders of the Code. (1987). A musical by Theodora Skipitares. Covers everything from creation myths to theories of eugenics, and incorporates Plato’s Republic, Darwin’s Origin of Species, and Watson’s Double Helix into a collage.
Einstein on the Beach. (1976). Opera by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass.
Two sound recordings and one videotaped recording are listed.
Einstein’s Dreams. (2002-2003). Music by Joshua Rosenblum, book by Joanne Sydney Lessner. Loosely based on the novel Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. A tone poem of ruminations on time and mortality in early 20th century Switzerland.
Einstein’s Dreams. (2005). Another musical setting, by Albert Innaurato
and Marjorie Samoff, based on Alan Lightman’s eponymous novel. It
shows Einstein as a young man with no money, a troubled marriage, an illegitimate
baby, bohemian intellectual friends, and a burning passion to discover
the mysteries of the universe. Each of the dreams becomes a musical interlude,
using different kinds of music to suggest motion, stasis, repetition,
timelessness, and moving backwards in time.
Galileo Galilei. (2002). A chamber opera with different takes from Brecht’s
play by Philip Glass. Libretto by Mary Zimmerman with Philip Glass and
Arnold Weinstein. Directed by Mary Zimmerman at Brooklyn Academy of Music
Howard Gilman Opera House. Videotaped on October 3, 2002.
Imperfect Chemistry. (2000). A musical comedy by Albert M. Tapper (music) and James Racheff (book and lyrics). Two geneticists at a philanthropic laboratory are seduced into finding a cure for baldness. Broadway recording taped November 27, 2001. Tapper, Albert M. and James Racheff. Imperfect Chemistry [sound recording]: A New Musical Comedy. Georgetown, CT: Original Cast Records, 2001.
Quark Victory. (2000). A musical by Robert and Willie Reale in which
a young girl journeys through a sub-atomic world occupied by dancing electrons
and singing neutrinos.
Star Messengers. (2001). A quasi-opera by Paul Zimet and Ellen Meadow which shows Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and Kepler interacting with three harlequins from one of Galileo’s books.
The Ballad of Phineas P. Gage. (2002). In 1848 an iron rod passed through the head of Phineas P. Gage, and he survived. But how did he live? The work explores this groundbreaking neurological case through puppetry, music, and poetry.
The Electric Sunshine Man. (1978). A musical about Thomas Edison. Music by John F. Wilson, words by Grace Hawthorne. Mainly for children.
The Oracle of Delphi. (2000). Script by Anne Gaud McKee, music by Christian Denisart, choreography by Markus Schmid. A pantomime about P.A.M. Dirac’s theoretical discovery of the positron and of antimatter.
Three Tales. (2002). Steve Reich’s and Beryl Korot’s multimedia collaboration, consisting of three sequences for instrumentalists, singers, and video projection. A parable of man’s Faustian bargain with technology. Performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Howard Gilman Opera House on October 18, 2002. There is a videotaped recording on file at the New York Public Library Performing Arts Library – R & H, Call No. LVH 2062. Written permission from Brooklyn Academy of Music required for use. Notes/house program also on file.
Zyklon. (2004). An opera by Peter King and Julian Barry based on the horrifying story of German-Jewish chemist Fritz Haber, who received a Nobel prize for his discovery of nitrogen fixation and became the inventor of chemical warfare weapons which, under his guidance, were used by Germany in World War I and in the Nazi extermination camps of World War II.
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