While technically the summer isn't over for a few weeks, there's that back-to-school feeling in the air. Perhaps that's the reason there are all sorts of exciting science-infused cultural happenings popping up!
This year the Mark Taper Forum kicks its season off with the play MARJORIE PRIME by playwright Jordan Harrison. Directed by Les Waters, the play will run from September 10th – October 19th. I’m intrigued by the Taper’s description: In the age of artificial intelligence, how do you compute the reality of loss and keep your loved ones from becoming a distant memory?
Jeff Ward, Lois Smith, Lisa Emery and Frank Wood on the first day of rehearsal for MARJORIE PRIME.
Photo by Craig Schwartz, courtesy of Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.
In addition to the compelling subject matter, I'm also excited to see this play because the cast features one of my favorite actresses, Lois Smith. I’ve been lucky enough to see her do some amazing theater, and she's been in a ton of classic films (her first part onscreen was in EAST OF EDEN!), but she may be more recognizable to newer audiences from her roles in TRUE BLOOD and MINORITY REPORT. In an interview in the Playbill for the show, she was asked what about Harrison’s play resonated with her the most:
“The way he deals with memory and with family and in a way, eternity. There is a certain delicacy about it. [The characters] are, like a piece of music or a book, in terms of human endeavors, they are human inventions, trying to encapsulate meaning. Just the delicacy with which he tackles something. I’d never seen that before."
The Planets: An HD Odyssey
If you didn't get enough of the heavenly bodies on International Observe the Moon night this past Saturday, the Hollywood Bowl is giving you a grand second opportunity on Tuesday, September 9th. Images from NASA and JPL rovers and satellites, as well as computer-generated graphics of the Mars landing, will accompany a performance of Holst's PLANETS. The suite has seven movements, each named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character:
1. Mars, the Bringer of War (00:00 - 07:21)
2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace (07:22 - 15:59);
3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger (16:00 - 19:51);
4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (19:52 - 27:49);
5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (27:50 - 36:31);
6. Uranus, the Magician (36:32 - 42:14)
7. Neptune, the Mystic (42:15 - 49:01).
And if for some reason you're not awed by what you see onscreen, all you have to do is tilt your head back and look up at the sky. I can't wait for this evening of beautiful music under the stars! Now I just need to figure out what kind of picnic to pack...
Conductor: Andrè Previn & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
AxS Festival 2014: Curiosity
So, so excited about this two-week festival taking place in Pasadena, CA, from September 19th - October 5th. AxS [ak-sis], produced by the Pasadena Arts Council, "explores the nexus of artistic and scientific inquiry, promoting experimentation and cross-fertilization between these disciplines."
So what does that mean exactly? A whole bunch of really cool events that merge science with architecture, new media, visual art, music and theater, along with some super-smart, creative people having conversations about it all. You can check out the full schedule; below are a few of the events I'm particularly looking forward to.* For specific date, time and ticket info for each of them, see the individual event pages.
- EVELINA DOMNITCH & DMITRY GELFAND/ LUCKY DRAGONS: Amsterdam-based art-science artists Domnitch and Gelfand will join experimental music group Lucky Dragons for performance, science and art, live music,video projections and collaborative sound art. Domnitch and Gelfand’s 10,000 PEACOCK FEATHERS IN FOAMING ACID uses laser light to scan the surfaces of soap bubble clusters. Unlike ordinary light, the laser’s focused beam is capable of crawling through the micro and nano structures within a bubble’s skin. When aimed at specific angles, this penetrating light generates a large-scale projection of molecular interactions as well as mind-boggling phenomena of non-linear optics. Bubble behaviors viewed in such proximity evoke the dynamics of living cells (the lipid membranes of which are direct chemical descendants of soap film). And then for a deeper dive into Domnitch and Gelfand's process, head to QUANTUM SENSITIVITY:A Talk with Domnitch & Gelfand, at which the artists discuss their immersive works which merge physics, chemistry and computer science with uncanny philosophical practices. Addressing the very thresholds of scientific insight, these endeavors explore the slippery frontier where quantum behavior arises on a human scale.
- MARKO PELJHAN: Arctic Lab: A trip to see the glaciers is on my bucket list, so this project caught my eye. Artist/scientist Peljhan will discuss the Arctic Perspective Initiative, an art/science/tactical media project focused on the global significance of the Arctic geopolitical, natural and cultural spheres. And did I mention that Peljhan has also been the flight director of ten parabolic experimental flights in collaboration with the Microgravity Interdisciplinary Research initiative and the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, creating conditions for artists to work in alternating gravity conditions? Fascinating stuff I'd like to hear more about.
- SOL PATH: Having been on site as part of the NASA Social program for the Curiosity landing, I still feel an affinity for all things rover-related. Sol Path was inspired by the exploratory path that the Mars Rover takes over the course of a Martian day and developed in residency at JPL. It explores the intricate interactions between an Earth-bound team of explorers and a robotic space lab as it searches for signs of life. By composer/cognitive scientist Bruno Louchouarn, with live performance by viola soloist Brett Deubner and immersive multimedia platform by Adam Larsen.
- Pasadena Arts Council has commissioned arts collective Machine Project to re-imagine the Pasadena landmark Gamble House through a variety of interactive events. I think my favorite on the list is POETS IN CLOSETS, where poets read a single poem to one audience member at a time in the Gamble House’s walk-in closet. It’s like a literary twist on 7 Minutes in Heaven. Or what I like to imagine might be a lost scene from Downton Abbey.
- COPENHAGEN: I was lucky enough to see the original Broadway production of Michael Frayn’s Tony-award-winning play in which German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Danish physicist Niels Bohr (and Bohr’s wife Margrethe) meet in 1941 to debate physics, politics, love and betrayal, while cautiously dancing toward the detonation of the fission bomb. In this special presentation from theater company A Noise Within, the always engaging Caltech physicist and author Sean Carroll offers an engaging, pre-show mini-lecture on the origins of the universe, and the cast will do a post-show discussion on the themes of the play.
- ALICE THROUGH THE WORMHOLE OR WHAT’S THIS WONDERLAND UP TO? You all know I’m a sucker for good theater, so not surprising that I’ve chosen to highlight not just one, but two theatrical endeavors from the festival. This is described as a work-in-progress of a wild, original musical take on Alice through the Caltech Universe.
- KPCC will be hosting several events in conjunctinon with AxS at the Crawford Family Forum, including MAKERS: WOMEN IN SPACE. This segment of the six-part PBS documentary series from Executive Producers Dyllan McGee & Peter Kunhardt profiles the impact women have had over the past 50 years. Following the film, Joanne Griffith will interview Rev. Dr. Bear Ride on the life and legacy of her sister, the late Dr. Sally Ride — the first U.S. woman in space.
*Event descriptions that accompany my comment provided by AxS.