Many students may remember sitting in science class and hearing about the discoveries of Galileo Galilei, but tonight, USF’s School of Theatre and Dance will move the story of the groundbreaking astronomer from the textbook to the stage.
The school’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Life of Galileo” revolves around the scientist’s life and the tensions between religion and science. In his lifetime, he argued that the Earth was not the center of the universe, but rather that the Earth revolved around the sun.
In the play his research and findings are dangerous and threaten his life, and Galileo has to confront the tensions between science and religion head on.
Director C. David Frankel said the title role is challenging, but believed that USF alumnus Jack Halloway was up to the task.
“We’re very fortunate in that one of our alumni actors, Jack Halloway, is our guest artist and is playing the part of Galileo,” he said. “He can play the part in a way that can anchor the production.”
Frankel said the most challenging part of the production was having an abundance of roles played by a relatively small number of cast members.
“(There are) 20 actors playing about 60 or 80 roles,” he said, adding that each cast member had the challenge of making four or five different characters distinct in some way.
Of those 20 cast members, a large majority is female. In the true spirit of theater, Frankel decided to distribute the roles among the cast regardless of gender.
Frankel said the audience should come with an open mind in respect to the gender switch, as he opted not to change the original gender of the character to suit the actor or actress portraying them. He also said the audience may even find that it adds something to the overall production.
Frankel said another challenge was having cast members play characters completely separate from themselves, having to find a way to get into their heads to accurately portray their point of view.
“One really difficult thing is that all my characters are male and I am, of course, female,” said Audrey Henson, a senior majoring in theater performance. “Another hard part was trying to figure out where these characters are coming from. To them, the only facts that exist are the facts in the Bible. I guess trying not to make them seem ‘evil’ was also something I had to do, just trying to figure out their intentions.”
Some had to take it a step further to portray their character, researching the scientific expertise of their characters. Lauren Allison, a junior majoring in theater performance and playing Galileo’s supporter, Barberini, said she had to do just that while preparing for her roles.
“I think that the toughest part of playing Barberini is that he has extensive knowledge of astrology and Scripture, and as an actor, that requires you to try and understand that same knowledge that you might not study in your everyday life,” she said. “I had to really study his words in order to portray his character well.”
Though the play is set in the mid-1500s, Frankel said students will be able to relate to it.
“I think they’ll be entertained,” he said. “They’ll get a chance to see some powerful acting, I think, and confront some interesting ideas and go away feeling like they have something to talk about.”
The theme of USF’s School of Theatre and Dance’s season, which will also include productions of “Proof” and “R.U.R.,” is science. Frankel said he wants to showcase science, art and culture hand-in-hand through performance, and that “Life of Galileo” is just the beginning.
“Life of Galileo” runs tonight through Saturday and Oct. 5-8 at 8 p.m., as well as Sunday and Oct. 9 at 3 p.m. in Theatre II. Tickets for students are $8 in advance and $10 on show days.