Science sparks on Schuster stage

The scientific world of Galileo usually feels more at home in textbooks and lectures than in house music, glittering neon lights and makeup Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert would envy.

For the 16 cast members of the Schuster Theatre’s production by the same name, however, the marriage of old scientific ideas and 21st century glamour is purposeful and seamless. Black makeup adorns the cast members’ faces and strips of red fabric act as indication of religious titles.

Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” follows the innovative time of Galileo Galilei’s life, in 17th century Italy.

The play focuses primarily on the struggles Galileo faced when the church became aware of his work, though it also includes a glimpse into his family life through the storyline of Virginia, his daughter.

Joe Uhing, a senior chemistry major, plays the title role. It is evident from the moment it begins just how much work went into the show, especially from Uhing.

Practically all of his dialogue is more monologue than simple line – he often has to command the stage for several moments at a time – and he does so without being tripped up by the many scientific ideas coined by Galileo himself.

Uhing is not the only cast member who has clearly spent a great deal of time preparing for the performances.

Matt Crays, a junior theater and communication arts major, transforms from an eager student to a dynamic adult throughout the show, and he also composed and performs the song “Round and Round” in Act 2.

Eli Coppock, a senior history major, said he was genuinely impressed by the talent and work that has gone into the show. “The entire cast had to memorize entire monologues for every line they had,” he said. “I have to give them a lot of credit for that; it couldn’t have been easy.”

Detailed monologues are a trademark of Brecht’s plays. “Galileo” focuses more on the historical issues presented in the story than it does on the actual emotions driving the characters’ intentions.

This lets audience members decide for themselves who they want to side and agree with when all is said and done.

Jasse Camacho, a sophomore theatre and communication arts major, plays characters that represent both sides of the science vs. religion debate. He said that while the wordy dialogue has posed a challenge for him, he has enjoyed the journey into Brecht’s style of writing and Galileo’s mind.

 “In Scene 12, my scene mates and I were directed to take real-time moments of silence,” he said. “You can hear audience members uncomfortably shifting in their seats, wondering if a line was lost. It’s a true moment of Brecht theater.”

Carly Lyons, a senior communication arts major, also pulls double-duty in the show, as much of the cast does, portraying both Chancellor Priuli and Cardinal Belarmine.

She said that she was pleased with how the first weekend of performances went and is looking forward to the next.

 “We had a sold-out audience on Thursday night and over the weekend, the audience really seemed to find humor in the show,” she said.

“That’s awesome because there are some great one-liners and funny moments.”     

Lyons said she has enjoyed this show because she’s gotten to play characters who are very removed from her personality. Although the religious figures in “Galileo” are clad in white, they are often condescending and even a little rude when they are discussing Galileo’s findings.

The show’s ending comes in an interesting, artistic moment that bridges the gaps between actors, characters and the content of the play. No matter what individuals’ views were on Galileo’s findings during his lifetime, they all return to the stage and silently acknowledge that even though their character may not agree with Galileo, the mysteries of the sky exist.

 “Go into the show with an open mind,” Lyons said.

“The show is intellectual and it will challenge you to think about life in a different way, but it also has parts where you can’t help but smile.”

 “Galileo” has performances Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Schuster Theatre. Tickets are free with a student I.D. and can be reserved by calling (814) 871-7494.


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