When Light Bends

Did you know that gravity bends light?
Sleight of hand…optical illusion…..music….. mystery….will show you how

A play with music that riffs on the science of relativity with interludes of magic and illusion, When Light Bends tells the story of Albert Einstein’s struggle to complete his General Theory of Relativity and Arthur Eddington’s fight to confirm that theory by observing the positions of the stars during the 1919 solar eclipse. This collaboration between two scientists on opposite sides of World War I is paired with a celestial fable of two lovers searching for a closer connection to each other, as they rush to reach the path of totality during 2024’s eclipse before it’s too late. In both tales, our protagonists are forced to update their beliefs, and uncover hidden truths, in the face of the complex, the simple, and the sublime. The piece will incorporate sleight of hand, optical illusion, and projections accompanied by intermittent music, inviting the audience to come together over the mysterious and fleetingly knowable.
When Light Bends is produced by Kay Matschullat, directed by Elena Araoz, written by John Edgar Lopez and Gracie Leavitt, astrophysicist Jared Goldberg, Justin Townsend designing set and lights, and composer Tamar Muskal inventing an original score. The piece will be activated by a diverse cast representing the world in which we live and reflecting the audience we seek to serve.

MEET THE CREATIVE TEAM

Elena Araoz

Jared Goldberg

Gracie Leavitt

John Lopez

Kay Matschullat

Tamar Muskal

Justin Townsend

Venues

Highland Center for the Arts

2875 Hardwick St, Greensboro, VT 0584

March 22-24, 2024
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Boston Museum of Science

1 Science Park Boston, MA 02114

March 27, 2024
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Credits

Stage Director Elena Araoz

Elena Araoz is a stage director of theater, opera, multi-media performance, and theatrical large-scale immersive events, working internationally, Off-Broadway, and across the country. Elena is attracted to epic stories, and her productions are known for huge dance-like theatrics and acutely naturalistic acting. The New York Times has praised Araoz’s productions as “form-busting and gorgeous,” “striking,” “primal,” “wild,” “stirring,” and “refreshingly natural,” The Boston Globe as “riveting,” “dreamy,” and “vivid,” and The New Yorker as “refreshing.” Time Out New York mentions, “Elena Araoz is a director with deep wells of imagination; she seems drawn to magical realist work.” Elena also serves as the Producing Artistic Director of Princeton University’s Theater and Music Theater Season. She is a founding member of the Obie-winning The Sol Project. The Dallas Opera just released her 3D Immersive audio-only production of No One Is Forgotten: An Immersive Opera. Elena served as director and immersive designer of the opera composed by Paola Prestini and Sxip Shirey and written by Winter Miller, in a never before created method. Senator Bill Bradley’s documentary film Rolling Along, on which Elena served as Artistic Consultant after having served as Dramaturg for the Senator’s stage production, premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival produced by Spike Lee, and will release on HBO/MAX in early February 2024. Upcoming, Elena will direct the commercial run of the new musical Havana Music Hall as an immersive experience inside the new Miami club by the same name. 2024 will mark the sixth annual 30-city national tour of her musical production of Sugar Skull. She will also direct Catherine Filloux’s How to Eat an Orange at La Mama, Elena’s productions have been seem at BAM, New York City Opera, Vancouver Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Oregon Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Prague Shakespeare, New York Theatre Workshop Next Door, Bucharest International, Cherry Lane Theatre, Noble Theater Bridge in Beijing, Studio Theatre in D.C., Barrington Stage, and PENAmerica to name a few. Her multimedia piece The Manic Monologues at McCarter Theatre was nominated for the Drama League Award. www.elenaaraoz.com

Astrophysicist Jared Goldberg

Originally from starry Southern California, Jared Goldberg received his B.A.’s in Physics and Philosophy from Claremont McKenna College in 2016, and his Ph.D. in Physics from UC Santa Barbara in 2022. He currently is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics, where research focuses on using simulations to understand the structure and evolution of stars, and the light produced in their explosions as supernovae. Jared’s love for the physics of celestial objects grew from a love of music, and his mother loves to tell the story of how his first science project ever was about sound waves in musical instruments (wait until Kindergarten-Jared hears that sound waves travel through stars, too!). Non-professionally, Jared also loves hiking and nature, martial arts, exploring the city and its culture and cuisine, puzzles, and puns.

Writer Gracie Leavitt

Gracie Leavitt is a poet, storyteller and writer for performance interested in amplifying underheard histories and supporting narrative change in collaboration with experts in their own fields and experiences. Her work is anchored in the lyric, experiment, documentary and deep listening. Publications include the poetry collections Livingry and Monkeys, Minor Planet, Average Star, and she composed the text for the play Pitch, directed by Benjamin Mosse and staged at La MaMa as a production of Richard Schechner’s East Coast Artists. Jeffrey Gavett and Taylor Brook have set her poems to music for vocal performance, with a recording featured on the Byrne:Kozar:Duo’s It Floats Away from You. Gracie has also written and edited for television, including an essay voiced by Candace Parker. Having previously lived in and loved Philadelphia, Brooklyn and St. Louis, she currently resides in Maine, on the traditional lands of the Wabanaki, with her partner and two small children.

Writer John Lopez

John Lopez got his start working in feature film production before covering entertainment and the arts for Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, and BusinessWeek among others. An alum of the Sundance Episodic lab, John has written and produced for such shows as Strange Angel (Paramount+), Seven Seconds (Netflix), The Man Who Fell to Earth (Showtime) and The Terminal List (Amazon). In the run up to the WGA’s 2023 contract negotiations, he also served as a member of the Guild’s AI working group.

Creative Producer/Dramaturg Kay Matschullat

Kay Matschullat is an award-winning director, producer, and educator dedicated to deconstructing barriers and exploring inventive collaborations. She has directed world premieres of plays by Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Ariel Dorfman, and had artistic residencies at Calarts, Dartmouth, Duke, and SCAD. She launched the IntheRaw program at Red Bull Theater and the New Play Program at Williamstown Theater Festival. After successfully launching the first online collaborative tool for script development, Matschullat founded MAX (Media Art Xploration, Inc) dedicated to increasing artistic exploration with and about the light speed advances in science and technology. Since founding Media Art Xploration, she has produced the multi -venue biennial festivals MAXlive 2019:  A Space Festival, the inaugural MAXlive festival in San Francisco creating collaborations between scientists and performers, MAXlive 2021, The Neuroverse pushing the limits of intelligence and investigating applications of AI in performance, and MAXlive 2023 Where is My Body – dance music and immersive performance exploring the changing nature of embodiment.  Partners include Carnegie Hall, The Exploratorium, MASS MoCA, National Sawdust, New York Live Arts, Onassis ONX Studio, The Boston Museum of Science,California Academy of Science and Highland Center for the Arts. She served as a full-time faculty member at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for two decades, and was a guest lecturer at Princeton University and Harvard College where she received the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Interdisciplinary Work.  She enjoys creating space for artists, scientists and creative technologists to change the world. 

Composer Tamar Muskal

Educated both in Israel and the United States, Tamar Muskal’s music harmonizes the unique cultural aspects of both places. Her music is always in a counterpoint style, carefully structured, and with great attention for details. Recent and future commissions include a work for soprano, interactive kinetic sculpture (by Daniel Rozin) and orchestra – commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra; a concerto for solo percussion, interactive kinetic sculpture (by Daniel Rozin) and chamber ensemble – commissioned by the La Jolla SumerFest; an opera with director-librettist Daniel Kramer (former artistic director of the English National Opera), with Raehann Bryce-Davis in the leading role; a flute concerto for Abigail Dolan – commissioned by the British Symphonova; a solo piano piece for Benjamin Hochman – commissioned by Deutscher Musikrat Neustart Kultur Stipendium; and a piano trio – commissioned by Ensemble Pi. Ms. Muskal has also served as the Westchester Philharmonic’s education composer-in-residence in the years 2001-2004, and in that capacity composed three orchestral pieces based on students’ artwork and poetry. Awards and grants came from institutions such as Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, Opera America, Meet The Composer, Forum/Jerome Foundation, IAWM, ASCAP, and four awards for her compositions and achievements from Yale School of Music. In 2014 Anthony Tommasini’s (of the NY Times) mentioned Tamar and her solo piano piece In My Heart I Am in his list of 10 Best Classical Music Events of the year – “… I kept thinking that classical music doesn’t get better than this” – he wrote.

Lighting and Set Designer Justin Townsend

Justin Townsend is an educator and international designer for performance. These twin vocations have formed the core of his professional identity throughout his twenty-five year career. A Tony Award winner, he has designed well over two hundred and fifty shows, spent fifteen years teaching in graduate and undergraduate settings, and served as a guest artist at educational theaters all over the country. His work thins the wall between academic and professional pursuits, allowing fundamental aspects of each to influence and inform the other. His innovations incorporate cutting-edge technology, reimagining raw theater tools, and an intimate investigation of modern aesthetics into both his career and classroom. 

His professional lighting design work includes such productions as: Moulin Rouge! The Musical (Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award); Jagged Little Pill (Tony Nomination); American Psycho (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Henry Hewes Award); The Humans (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award); Here Lies Love, (Drama Desk Award, Public Theater); Vietgone, (MTC); Pretty Filthy, (Civilians); Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Play, Milk Like Sugar, (Playwrights Horizons); Odyssey, A Winter’s Tale, (Public Works at the Delacorte Theater); Venus, (Signature Theater); Unnatural Acts, Mother Courage, and Galileo (Classic Stage Company).

As a creative director, Justin collaborated with Grammy-winning recording artist Drake, designing a 50 foot tall replica of the top of the CN Tower for Drake’s OvO Fest in Toronto. The two also paired up for 2017’s “Boy Meets World” European tour.  Set Design work includes designs on and off Broadway as well as in the regional theater.  He collaborates with directors Elena Araoz, Nancy Keystone, Lear Debessonet, and Brooke O’Harra.  Justin received an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design in 2014.

This work is supported by the Simons Foundation
and is part of its ‘In the Path of Totality’ initiative.
Commissioned with support from The Ensemble Studio Theatre/ Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project

ABOUT MAX

Media Art Xploration (MAX) is a NYC-based non-profit production company that was founded in 2018 by Founding Director Kay Matschullat to support the development, production, and presentation of compelling and artistically sophisticated new work that brings important questions surrounding scientific research and emerging technology to the public in an accessible format. As accelerating climate change, technologies such as artificial intelligence chatbots and AI surveillance, and new research into animal intelligence and perception call into question our role as humans, we believe that it is imperative that artists working in live performance and immersive installation are given adequate resources to explore these developments.

From a science communication standpoint, we believe that works experienced live have a unique ability to catalyze deep emotional transformation and intellectual consideration. MAX aims to bring both arts and science audiences together and strengthen the production capacity of the greater arts ecosystem by providing substantive production support to artists both familiar and new to engaging with science and emerging technologies. In addition to supporting new commissions, we also produce a biennial live performance festival, MAXlive, featuring new works by choreographers, playwrights, composers, and technologists that grapple with the most pressing issues of our time; host a live conversation series MAXforum where artists and scientists share their processes with the public; and run a open call performance laboratory where works are incubated and developed.