Science, passion, truth, suppression, romance and even a little intrigue are all wrapped into one story about Galileo, his discoveries and his humanity.
“It’s a challenge to play such a big figure,” said Tom Fiscus, who has taken on the role of Galileo. “But the play writer allows the audience to see a real human being with lots of flaws. One over-reaching principle is that he always had to be right.”
“The Life of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht and David Hare will be performed on the OffCenter Stage, Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 24 to Jan. 26, and Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. The show is $15, $11 for students, and $2 off for Orcas Center members.
The play, directed by Robert Hall, shows how Galileo was initially celebrated as a great man of the Renaissance – until the Church condemned his teachings, fearing that he would begin to question the order of the social system, too.
It also questions the scientist’s responsibilities in the face of an oppressive government.
“I’ve never done a play that has evolved or morphed so much … and changed from what I thought it would be to what it is,” said Hall.
When he initially read the play, he thought it was rather dry, but as the words were spoken and the characters developed on stage the story was brought to life.
For Fiscus, he was not only drawn to Galileo’s personal struggles, but the hard science interwoven into the script. Like Galileo, he has always been fascinated by stars and space – when he was younger he wanted to be an astronomer.
“What also intrigued me about the play is that so much of what we know now, we take for granted,” said Fiscus.
The play also delves into the Church’s suppression of science in the 1600s propelling the cast to compare then with now, to look at those universal ills of power, domination and greed.
“There is always suppression,” said Frank Michels, who plays four roles. “Someone always has to have control.”
Galileo does not come out as the hero, but you’ll have to see the play to understand why.
“With Brecht there are no heroes,” said Freddy Hinkle, who has three roles. “Galileo is the anti-hero. There isn’t really any to-da’s, he made it!”
“Galileo” will be acted on a circular stage with the audience sitting on all sides of the stage.
Working in “the round” brings intimacy to the play, said Fiscus.
It’s also adds an extra challenge for the cast.
“Acting in the round is even more complicated than playing more than one character,” said Hinkle.
“I’d be better off as a holographic image,” added Michels. “I like to imagine that I am a photographic image.”
There will also be two projectors, mobiles and modern music to spark the imagination.
Moving through tragedy
The cast of “Galileo” started rehearsals during the fall and in late November was met with tragic news. Maria Massey, who was cast as three characters and also worked as the stage manager, died after she had been missing for two days. Hall and the cast were left shocked and saddened. They struggled with the decision to continue with the play.
“The whole play changed when Maria died,” said Hall. “She really touched a lot of people.”
After contemplation they decided to continue with the show and dedicated “Galileo” to her. There will be a special showing of the play that will take place on closing night. Hall requests that if anyone wants to contribute to that celebration to contact him through the center.
For Fiscus, he felt like he had to continue the play living up to Maria and her passion for theater and for life.
“We are missing her terribly,” said Hinkle. “I was really looking forward to being on the stage with Maria.”
Michels said Maria and Galileo had much in common because she was a person who could see “beyond and far ahead and lead with her spirit.”