Fall 2007

Science Play: Astronomy and Physics on the Stage

Listed in: Physics and Astronomy, as ASTR-15  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-26


Manuame Mukasa (Section 01)
Lara A. Phillips (Section 01)


(Also Theater and Dance 26.) This course will examine a selection of plays that use astronomy or physics to delve into the scientific process, including plays by Brecht, Frayn, and Stoppard. By focusing on the moments abutting the instant of scientific discovery, these plays expose people at their most exhilarated and vulnerable. This creates an ideal space to explore the scientific idea itself as well as the attending complex human interactions and issues such as gender and genius, the interplay of society and science, and the scientist's responsibility to society. The course will guide the student through humanity's evolving view of cosmology, loosely mirroring the arc of the scientific content of the plays and pausing to focus on three pivotal moments in our understanding of the universe. In addition to addressing these key ideas, we will study the theatricality of the plays. We will examine the experiences of the playwright in the writing process, and the director and actor in bringing the play from the page to the stage. Having explored major current topics in astrophysics at a non-technical level as well as the roles of the playwright, director and actor in giving life to the science play, the course will culminate in the translation of these scientific ideas to the stage. First semester. Professor Mukasa and Teaching Fellow Phillips.