I am usually best-known to local readers as the creator of comic strips (Mr. Fitz is my funnies-page creation); but in May, Shoestring Theatre in Lake Helen is giving me the opportunity to showcase a different facet of my writing. Shoestring will be presenting, as a staged reading, my first full-length play: The Music of the Spheres.
This play has been 35 years in the making. It began when I was in Ms. Puciak’s 11th-grade Earth-Space Science class and we were shown an episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
It involved a plethora of characters: an astronomer who thought the planets sang who wrote the world’s first science-fiction story, and whose mother was almost burned at the stake as a witch; a second astronomer, who was perpetually tipsy and had a golden nose; and a dwarf doorman who ran a castle like an all-night party, and was, quite possibly, the original Igor.
That first astronomer was Johannes Kepler, and Tycho Brahe had the golden proboscis.
In The Music of the Spheres, Kepler goes to Brahe’s castle, hoping the older, golden-nosed astronomer’s observations will help him prove his theory of the music of the spheres.
But instead of finding a willing collaborator, Kepler finds Brahe a formidable foe who plays mind games with him, hiding his secrets just out of reach.
What took 35 years, you may ask? A good question!
An early version of the play had two staged readings in the early 1990s, but I got busy teaching, writing and drawing cartoons, so the play sat on the shelf.
Then came the internet with a wealth of resources online that I hadn’t had on hand for the first version, as well as new books on the subject.
Armed with new insights, I was inspired, by world events in which science seems to be under attack by flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers, to create a revised version.
To explain exactly the term “staged reading”: Actors will have scripts in hand, but they will also have blocking (movement) and be acting the scenes as if it were a full-scale production.
Local director Darlene Stewart (whom I have worked with on numerous plays!) is directing a cast that includes Adam Roberts, undertaking the challenging role of Kepler (who, virtually, never leaves the stage), and Mathias Lenssen, who recently appeared in The Foreigner at Shoestring, performing the role of Brahe.
Members of my own family are also lending their talents. My wife, Andrea, plays Brahe’s wife; and my son, Chris, plays Richter, the man who wants to steal away Kepler’s life’s work.
Other cast members include Jenny Sejansky as Kepler’s witch-crafty mother; Paula Tedrow as Kepler’s wife; Andrew Wilson; Austin “Virgil” Grogan; Bob Sollien; Alix Miller; Rachael Harrell and Cynthia Dusenbery.
Kepler’s story has often been overshadowed by Galileo’s, and while the Galileo story is intriguing, Kepler’s is more innately theatrical.
The play Life of Galileo involves house arrest, while The Music of the Spheres has wars, witch hunts, censorship, all-night parties, the plague, political intrigue, mind games, lies, and a quest for the truth that lasts a lifetime!
After the performance, I hope those interested will remain for a question-and-answer period.
The play will have two performances, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19.
Tickets cost $15 for adults and senior citizens, and $10 for students and children.
For reservations, call 386-228-3777 or visit www.shoestringtheatre.net.
Shoestring Theatre is at 380 S. Goodwin St. in Lake Helen.