To paraphrase a comment made to me by an English professor a long time ago, my ignorance of dark matter is extensive.
I’m still in the dark many years later about William Butler Yeats, but I’m feeling slightly more comfortable with dark matter today. Vera Rubin: Bringing the Dark to Light (hereafter Vera Rubin) has the potential to bring a LOT of light to a LOT of people about dark matter.
For those who are not familiar with Vera Rubin, the astronomer, fear not. Few of us are familiar with her. While not completely unknown, she has been a critical part of astronomy since she discovered evidence of dark matter in the 1960’s and 1970’s. While her evidence was controversial when introduced, dark matter in general, is now widely accepted by the scientific community.
Boulder Ensemble (BETC) has collaborated with the Fiske Planetarium for Vera Rubin, staging all the performances in the Planetarium. It’s the ultimate venue for a theatrical lighting designer. He or she has access to the most advanced lighting and projection equipment anywhere. The Fiske can put 180 degree projections/lights on the 70 foot domed ceiling, complete with 8K resolution and surround sound. Immersive is not an adequate adjective to describe the experience.
The Vera Rubin experience is twofold: a compelling and inspiring story of an eminent but largely unknown woman scientist, and a powerful visual trip through deep space in search of dark matter. Taken together, the story and the visuals are an immensely compelling theater experience.
The story of Vera Rubin is one of a pioneer overcoming ingrained discrimination. Rubin was a complete outlier in the 1960’s; women scientists were rare, women astronomers rarer still. Despite the resistance, Rubin kept proving herself capable and durable. Vera Rubin is a true story. In flashbacks, Rubin (portrayed by MacKenzie Sherburne), is rejected repeatedly (“Dr. No” is portrayed on video flashbacks by Justin Walvoord) simply because she is a woman.
The plot is pretty simple. Vera has a dream, in which Sir Isaac Newton (Chip Persons) shows up. Vera brings him up to date on more than 200 of years of science that has happened since he died. She shows him some amazing photos and animations explaining concepts that Newton could never have imagined.
The collaboration with the Fiske Planetarium is targeted for school children, with approximately 700 kids scheduled for field trips to the planetarium. Those kids will see a superbly executed story that will unquestionably inspire some to go on to great things. For that, the Fiske Planetarium and BETC deserve abundant credit.