Brecht's "Life of Galileo"
At Central Square Theater
April 10 - May 17

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the year Galileo first turned his telescope towards the skies and changed the way human beings thought of their place in the cosmos, Catalyst Collaborative@MIT and Underground Railway Theater will present Bertolt Brecht’s "The Life of Galileo." Performances at Central Square Theater are April 10 - May 17.

Starring Richard McElvain as Galileo, the production will be directed from David Wheeler from a translation by David Hare, who recently wrote the screenplay adaptation for the highly acclaimed motion picture, "The Reader."

One of Brecht’s most complex and well known plays, "The Life of Galileo" explores the life of the founder of modern science as Galileo is forced to set his personal passions and beliefs against the authorities of Church and State.

As a side note, the play was written by Brecht on the brink of World War II while the playwright was exiled from Germany and living in the United States.

As the story unfolds, Galileo’s scientific and personal integrity are put to the test as he argues for his life in a passionate debate over science, politics, religion and ethics. The same debates rage on today. "The Life of Galileo" also reveals the famous scientist's self-hatred for giving up his convictions in the face of the Inquisition and poses powerful questions that still resonate about the social responsibility of the scientist.

Brecht also questions what we must change about the ways we live our lives when a single breakthrough rocks the foundation of our belief systems. In the late Renaissance, it was the cosmos; in the 19th century, evolution; today, it's the possibilities that might be unearthed by unlocking the human genome.

Richard McElvain has been acting and directing in the Boston area for twenty-five years and has won the Elliot Norton Award for Best Actor. Most recently he was seen in Boston Theatre Works' award-winning production of "Angels in America." Other credits include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "The Lady from Maxim's" with the Huntington Theatre; "Barking Sharks" and "Unexpected Tenderness" at Gloucester Stage Company; and "The Scarlet Letter", "Sylvia" and "Twelfth Night" at New Rep. He has also appeared at Merrimack Rep and with the Boston Shakespeare Theatre Company. His directing credits include the classics and the works of Israel Horowitz at Gloucester Stage and off-Broadway. McElvain also played Mr. Crain in the film "Mermaids" and appeared in several episodes of the hit Boston-based television series, “Spenser for Hire.”

The cast also include Steven Barkhimer, Jason Bowen, Andrew Cekala, Amanda Collins, Kevin Kaine, Robert Najarian, Jamie Nelson, Stephen Russell, Vincent Ernest Siders, Lewis D. Wheeler, and Underground Railway Theater Artistic Director Debra Wise.

Director David Wheeler has staged numerous productions at the American Repertory Theatre, where he has served as Associate Artist and Resident Director since 1984. He has also directed more than a dozen productions at Trinity Repertory Company, as well as "Richard III" and "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" on Broadway, both with Al Pacino. As Artistic Director of the Theatre Company of Boston from 1963 – 75, Mr. Wheeler directed more than eighty productions, including works by new writers such as Ed Bullins, Jeffrey Bush, John Hawkes, Adrienne Kennedy and Sam Shepard, helping to launch the careers of such then unknown actors such as Stockard Channing, Blythe Danner, Robert DeNiro, Robert Duvall, Spalding Gray, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jon Voight, and James Woods, among others. Mr. Wheeler's honors include the Elliot Norton Award (for his work on "Misalliance") and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Award. He has taught and directed at Harvard University, BU, MIT, and Brandeis.

Translator David Hare has been writing for the theater since the 1960’s. He served as Resident Dramatist to the Royal Court Theater in London, has been the Associate Director for the National Theatre, is an accomplished director of both theater and film, and was knighted in 1998. Recently he has become known for writing successful adaptations of novels for film, including "The Hours," "The Corrections" and "The Reader."

During the run of "The Life of Galileo," there will be talk-back sessions after selected performances led by world-class scientists such as Eric Lander (Co-Director, Broad Institute and President Obama’s newly appointed science advisor), Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, Robert Jaffe (MIT Morningstar Professor Physics), and others. Check the theater's website (below) for updated details.

As well, a Galileo Symposia Series will take place before each Saturday night performance. Audience members will have the opportunity to participate in debates with renowned scientists and professors, providing insight into Galileo’s life and times as well as how the questions raised by the play impact us today. The Galileo Symposia Series is free with the price of admission. The schedule is as follows:

Saturday, April 11, 6 p.m.
Who rocked our world more – Galileo or Darwin?
How scientific discovery impacts us from the Renaissance to now.

Saturday, April 18, 6:45 p.m.
Scientific discovery for whom?
Power plays between science, church, state and the people

Saturday, April 25, 6:45 p.m.
What did Galileo unleash?
How has the practice of science changed?

Saturday, May 2, 6 p.m.
The battle for the truth: science vs. religion.
The debate in "The Life of Galileo" and how it continues today.

Saturday, May 9, 6:45 p.m.
Brecht in action: the creation of a masterwork.
The play's unique history and style and the questions it raises

Saturday, May 16, 6:45 p.m.
Is the scientist responsible to anyone?
If so, why. And to whom?

The Catalyst Collaborative@MIT is a unique collaboration between MIT and Underground Railway, a professional company with 30 years experience connecting professional theater with the community. CC@MIT is dedicated to creating and presenting plays that deepen public understanding about science, while simultaneously providing an artistic and emotional experience not available in other forms of dialogue about science.

For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit

-- OnStage Boston



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