“We’re bringing the water to the horse,” says Stephen Weitz of the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s new production, Vera Rubin: Bringing the Dark to Light, a unique cross-pollination of science and theater that opens January 21 at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium. For this one-act, two-character play set against the backdrop of the Fiske’s powerful new digital Megastar projection system, BETC is collaborating with playwright and CU grad William C. Kovacsik, as well as the Fiske’s creative staff.
The play follows a dream encounter between contemporary astronomer Vera Rubin and seventeenth-century physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton. Rubin’s prize-winning study of the motion of galaxies led directly to the idea of “dark matter” (unseen hypothetical mass that’s necessary to make current physical models of the universe compute), and this scenario has her clashing with Newton about the changing picture of reality that science keeps repainting.
“Vera Rubin’s story is being told with an eye toward young women,” says Weitz, who notes that more than 600 local middle- and high-school students are already slated to see the play. “At that age, many young women you see self-opt out of science careers; they perceive that there’s no place for them in that world. We’re sharing ideas outside the scope of what they’re used to seeing.”
Now in its tenth year, BETC also plans to take a site-specific approach for its next production, Ideation, making a virtue of necessity as the company’s home at the Dairy Center is renovated. Weitz sees new possibilities in the challenge. “We can carve these into opportunities,” he says. “This is direct outreach, and as we work with new populations and new segments of the community, we interweave ourselves into that community fabric. In a way, we can become their representative, telling their stories.”