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Play about Feynman will have MIT reading

Award-winning actor Jeremiah Kissel will portray Nobel laureate Richard Feynman (S.B. 1939) in a staged reading of "QED," a play inspired by Feynman's writing. The performance is scheduled for Room 10-250 on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m.

The performance will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Ralph Leighton, a longtime friend of Feynman's and the author of "Tuva or Bust: Richard Feynman's Last Journey" (W.W. Norton, 1991). Other panelists have not been confirmed yet.

Feynman, who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in quantum electrodynamics (QED), was also known for his work on the atomic bomb and his simple solution to the puzzle of the Challenger explosion.

He also was a practical joker and eccentric who played the bongo drums and knew a great deal about Tuva, a mountain country adjacent to Mongolia. He and Leighton were preparing to visit Tuva's capital, Kyzyl, when Feynman died in 1988 at age 69. "A place that's spelled K-Y-Z-Y-L has just got to be interesting," said Feynman, who discovered Tuva when he collected stamps as a child.

The role of Feynman in the play written by Peter Parnell was created by Alan Alda at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in spring 2001. That production was also staged at New York's Lincoln Center the following fall. Critics in both cities liked the show.

Kissel has appeared with theater companies throughout the Boston area for 20 years, performing Shakespeare, Chekhov, Sondheim, Dylan Thomas, Tom Stoppard and Neil Simon, among others. He won the 1999 Independent Reviewers of New England best supporting actor award and the first Outstanding Boston Actor Award at the Eliot Norton Ceremonies in 1990. The performance will be directed by Jonathan Lipsky.

The MIT Office of the Arts sponsored a symposium on Michael Frayn's play "Copenhagen" last May when a touring company performed in Boston. "Copenhagen" re-enacts discussions German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg had during World War II with Niels Bohr, with whom he created quantum mechanics, complementarity and the uncertainty principle. The symposium attracted an overflow crowd of 500 to the Wong Auditorium during a rainstorm.

Admission to "QED" is free. For information call 253-2341.

Feynman film festival

The Department of Physics is sponsoring screenings of the Feynman Films during IAP. The one-hour films by 1965 Nobel laureate Richard Feynman will be shown at 11:30 a.m. in Room 6-120 on Jan. 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 22, 24, 27 and 29. Admission is free. For the schedule and titles, click here.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 8, 2003.

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