The Kepler Story opened at The Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 2013 where it attracted 2,000 audience members, played seven sold-out shows, and received rave reviews and press. You may wonder how this transcendent theater piece was born...
The Big Bang
Having met in the 60’s, Nina Wise, performance artist, and Ralph Abraham, one of the pioneers of chaos theory, found themselves together again at UC Santa Cruz in 2004 where they were both teaching. During a series of lunch meetings, Ralph told Nina the story of 17th Century astronomer Johannes Kepler, whom he had been studying and writing about as part of his research on the history of paradigm shifts and their impact on human culture. Wise — fascinated by Kepler’s story and convinced of its vital relevance to contemporary issues — was inspired to translate it into a theater piece.
In the spring of 2006, the two collaborators spent a month at the Djerassi Resident Artist’s Program. There, Nina wrote the first version of The Kepler Project, a play with music for 8 actors. The play has had four staged readings through the Bay Area Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco, the Riverstage Playwrights Festival in Sacramento, the Lensic Center for the Performing Arts in Santa Fe.
The response of producers and audiences has been extremely positive.
DEEPENING THE WORK
In 2007, Nina traveled to Germany, Poland and Prague to research the highlights of Kepler’s life. She met with the directors of the Kepler Museums in Wiel der Stadt and Regensberg, visited the library of the Strahof Monastery in Prague which houses original 17th Century volumes by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, and toured the grand castle in Prague where the mad emperor Rudolph appointed Kepler Imperial Mathematician of the Holy Roman Emperor. She also visited the homes and observatories of Tycho de Brahe, which house his quadrants, sextants, and his illustrated maps of the universe.
TAKING KEPLER TO THE PLANETARIUM
In 2010, Nina approached Ryan Wyatt, director of California Academy of Sciences Morrison Planetarium about developing The Kepler Project for planetarium domes. Wyatt warmed to the idea and a groundbreaking project was given birth. Together with Ryan and visualization director Tim Horn, Wise developed a solo work with stunning immersive visuals and deeply moving music by renowned avant cellist Zoe Keating. The pilot run of the Kepler Planetarium Project starring Scoot Coopwood as Kepler played to over 1000 people during five shows at Morrison in November 2011. In 2012, The Kepler Story traveled to the Jena Domefest in Kepler’s native Germany where it was received with great enthusiasm with Nina playing Kepler. The success of these productions inspired us to move forward with a theatrical run in October, 2013 starring Norbert Weisser.