‘Starry Messenger’ Play Reveals Galileo’s Ordeals and Discoveries

“Starry Messenger” was one of Galileo’s most revolutionary works. It was the first scientific paper about the universe as seen through a telescope, and contained confounding ideas about the moon, stars and planets.

A new play of the same name by Ira Hauptman, directed by Susan Einhorn, will be presented by Manhattan’s Theater for the New City from January 27 to February 13, 2011 featuring David Little as the famed scientist. The play is a modern retelling of Galileo’s resistance and ultimate capitulation to the Inquisition over his support of the Copernican theory of the earth’s rotation.

There is ample drama in the history of Galileo’s famous recantation of his belief that the earth moves. It’s rumored that even after Galileo swore his recantation, he muttered “But still it moves.”

galileo wexler
Galileo and his two daughters: (LR) Elisa Matula, David Little, Marnye Young. Photo by Lee Wexler.

Ira Hauptman’s seven character play is unique in that it traces the effects of Galileo’s ordeals on his family–his son and two daughters–and his childrens’ role in his decision to renounce his discoveries. Notions of science, faith, demons, madness and self-sacrifice are raised and overturned. As Cardinals Borgia and Zacchia negotiate with Galileo over his recantation, we are also afforded a close look at the process of reconciling new science with the power structure–a clash that we are mindful of in our present-day conflicts over evolution and global warming.

“Starry Messenger” had its first staged reading at FirstStage in Hollywood. It was then awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation commission by the Magic Theatre in San Francisco and had a staged reading at the San Francisco Exploratorium, a cutting edge science museum. Other professional readings followed in the Science and the Arts series at the CUNY Graduate Center, and at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. This is the play’s world premiere.

The role of Galileo will be played by David Little. The other actors will be Brian Gagne, Jorge Luna, Elisa Matula, Jeremy Rishe, Marnye Young and Lou Vuolo. Set and costumes will be designed by Meghan E. Healey; lighting will be designed by Jeff Greenberg; sound design will be by Nel Paese.

Playwright Ira Hauptman is a professor of theatre at Queens College and a graduate of Yale Drama School. His plays have been performed in New York at the Manhattan Theatre Club, the Ensemble Studio Theatre and the International Cringefest; in Los Angeles at the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theatre, FirstStage, Odyssey and Moving Arts; in Berkeley at the Aurora Theatre; and in San Francisco at the Magic Theatre. His plays have also been produced in Paris, Brussels and Bangalore.

Director Susan Einhorn has directed over 70 productions and considers her specialty to be nurturing and developing new work. She was Assistant Director to the legendary Alan Schneider for four Broadway productions. Her first major NY success was “I Can’t Keep Running in Place” at the Westside Arts Theater, starring Helen Gallagher. She has also directed in NY at the Promenade, Circle in the Square, the Vineyard, Primary Stages, Playwrights Horizons, La MaMa, HB Playwrights Theatre, Open Space, Ubu Rep, Jewish Rep, and regionally at Milwaukee Rep, Syracuse Stage, Pittsburgh Public, Whole Theatre, and Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre and Studio Theatre.

David Little (Galileo) has appeared in Broadway’s “Brooklyn Boy,” “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Zalman or The Madness,” “Thieves” and “Blood Knot” as well as Off-Broadway and in major regional theatres across the country. He has made several feature and independent films including “Running Wild,” “King of the Gypsies,” “Claire Dolan,” “The Bet” and “Occupant.” He has played many guest starring roles on television in TV shows including “Law & Order,” “Ed,” “The Sopranos,” “Swift Justice,” “Guiding Light,” “Lipstick Jungle” and “Damages.”

“Starry Messenger” is produced by special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, IL.

Performances are January 27 to February 13, 2011 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave., Manhattan (at East 10th Street). The playing schedule is Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM. There is an added performance Sunday, January 30 at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $15 general admission and $12 for students/seniors. The box office number is (212) 254-1109 and tickets can be purchased online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.