May 14, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - When it was built in 1905, the refracting telescope at the Observatory at Amherst College was one of the largest and finest in the world. College and community will celebrate the renovation of the historic 18-inch Alvin Clark telescope, and the reopening of the Observatory, with a free public program of original drama, music and talks on the afternoon and evening of Friday, June 1.

From 4 to 6 p.m. a group of professional actors will read UFOs Over Brooklyn, a new two-act play completed by Jeffrey Stanley, a Copeland Fellow, during his residence at the college, and dircted by Florent Masse, the Levy-Despas Fellow at Amherst. An award-winning New York playwright (Tesla's Letters), Stanley describes UFOs Over Brooklyn as a very dark romantic comedy exploring the intersection of religious faith and human sexuality, and was inspired by media coverage of the Hale-Bopp Comet and the suicides among the Heaven's Gate cult. More information about Stanley and the play are at his Website,

At 8 p.m. the evening program will feature a musical setting by Lewis Spratlan, the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music, of a new poem by James Maraniss, professor of Spanish. Spratlan and Maraniss collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Life Is a Dream. NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman (Amherst '66) will speak, as will George Greenstein, professor of astronomy.

Following the event, the Observatory will be open to the public for viewing of the waxing moon and other celestial objects. The public is also invited to visit the Observatory on Saturday nights through the summer, without charge.