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Science and art merge in 'Einstein's Dreams'

An adaptation of 'Einstein's Dreams,' a novel by MIT physicist and author Alan Lightman, will be performed at MIT on Monday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 10-250.
An adaptation of 'Einstein's Dreams,' a novel by MIT physicist and author Alan Lightman, will be performed at MIT on Monday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 10-250.
Photo / Maura J. Zimmer

"Einstein's Dreams" keep coming to life.

Now translated into more than 30 languages, the best-selling novel "Einstein's Dreams" (1993) by MIT physicist Alan Lightman has been the basis for more than two dozen independent theatrical and musical productions.

One of these, an adaptation by Brian Niece and David Alford, has been selected as the inaugural event for a new multiyear collaboration between MIT and Underground Railway Theater (URT) that is dedicated to developing new plays about science. The new initiative is called the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT (CC@MIT).

"The sciences and the arts have a great deal to say to each other," said Lightman. "I'm delighted that MIT will be involved with a theatrical production of 'Einstein's Dreams,' not only as my home institution, but a place where science and the arts and creativity in general have always lived together happily."

On Monday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m., Boston actor, playwright and director Jon Lipsky will direct a free staged reading of "Einstein's Dreams," featuring Boston actors Eric Rubbe, Debra Wise and John Sarrouf, in Room 10-250.

A post-performance panel discussion will include Lightman; Debra Wise, artistic director of URT and artistic co-director of Catalyst Collaborative at MIT; and Robert Jaffe, the Jane and Otto Morningstar Professor of Physics at MIT.

A second free staged reading of "Einstein's Dreams" will take place at First Parish Church (3 Church St.) in Harvard Square on Tuesday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m. with a post- performance panel discussion with Lightman and Alan Guth, the V.F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics. Guth is a leading theoretical cosmologist best known for the role he has played in developing the fundamental ideas of cosmic inflation.

Set in Berne, Switzerland, in 1905, just before Einstein finished his Theory of Relativity, "Einstein's Dreams" creates time-tangled, absurd and poetic worlds that illustrate the tragedy and beauty of the human condition.

Future CC@MIT programs include a May reading of a play by Ira Hauptmann about the mathematician Ramanujan that is loosely based on "The Man Who Knew Infinity" by Robert Kanigel, head of the MIT Science Writing Graduate Program.

Associate Provost for the Arts Alan Brody, one of the collaborative's artistic directors, said, "CC@MIT will provide a large and diverse audience with a better understanding of our increasingly scientific and technological environment by presenting plays based on these complex themes."

The readings are supported in part by a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council.

For more information, call x3-2341.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 8, 2006 (download PDF).

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