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1609, 1616, 1632, 1633 ... 2019?

The Life of Galileo presented by Irondale Ensemble Project

Irondale summoned us again: this time to photograph and prepare video for their daring version of The Life of Galileo, the first play in their three-part series Bertholt Brecht in Exile. Amazingly, Brecht wrote this play more than 80 years ago  – with a change of dates and players it could have been conceived yesterday!

A Condensed History Reminder

In case you don’t remember, here’s what happened to Galileo Galilei: Galileo studied motion, astronomy and mathematics back in the late 1500s. In 1609 he developed his own telescope, saw the moon’s uneven surface, and soon after clearly saw four moons orbiting Jupiter. He concluded that Copernicus was indeed correct. Earth is not the center of our universe – it is the sun!

Those in power, the Catholic Church, reacted quickly to this amazing scientific discovery. By 1616 the Inquisitors came a questioning. Galileo’s theory was deemed absurd and also heretical since it contradicted the sense of Holy Scripture and current belief.

In 1632 Galileo’s writings defied the pope at the time ,Urban VII, who prior to the papacy as Cardinal Barberini – a mathematician and fellow scientist – somewhat favorably viewed Galileo’s work. As Pope, Urban now decried Galileo’s finding (can you say do a 180?) and sent the Inquisition. Galileo became a “guest” under house arrest.

Back to Brecht

Brecht first wrote the agitprop play Life of Galileo in 1938 while in exile from Nazi Germany. He collaborated with Charles Laughton from 1945 to 1947 on a second version, more biting than the first, in reaction to the post-Hiroshima world. It opened in Los Angeles July 30, 1947.

Those in power at the time, the House Un-American Activities Committee, reacted quickly. It subpoenaed Brecht for alleged communist connections. He testified on October 30, 1947 and fled to Europe the very next day.

Now Irondale Is Tackling Galileo – 17th to 21st century?

Dogma versus science. Oppression. Social responsibility. Dictatorship. Is there a single theme that doesn’t sound scarily familiar? You’d think you were watching MSNBC caught in a time warp.

While the words are the same as in the original play, Irondale’s version updates the surroundings with modern technology. The actors are Brecht and three collaborators who are brainstorming the production of Life of Galileo. They take on all the various roles. For props, they improvise with whatever is available in the room – a paper tube, fruit, a cat toy.

It soon becomes clear that Galileo is perhaps even more about today than yesterday. That’s why you must see it!

Because who knows what those in power might do now?


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