Inside Einstein’s mind

Einstein cast rehearse on set. Photo by Emma Neilson
Einstein cast rehearse on set. Photo by Emma Neilson

Tonight, the MSU School of Film and Photography begins performances of a brand new production that offers a glimpse inside the life and mind of one of the most captivating people ever to grace Planet Earth. “The Einstein Project,” a play by Paul D’Andrea and Jon Klein, follows Albert Einstein from his early beginnings as a patent clerk to his eventual involvement with the development of the atomic bomb in WWII.

The play aims to present a different, more human side to the creative genius and the inner workings of his mind. According to Director Tom Watson, “We see him when he’s only 26: he was young, he was good looking. We see him that way throughout, more as the spirit of Einstein.”

Inspired by the College of Arts and Architecture’s semester theme of “Art of Science and Science of Art,” Watson originally looked to perform the production “Copenhagen.” However, he settled on “The Einstein Project” due to its abstract nature and the fact that “Copenhagen” is performed every spring on campus in conjunction with the University Honors Program.

Watson believes this play is important because it “tries to break down the caricature of Einstein, the iconic celebrity image we have of him, and tries to deal with him as a real human being.” By showing us a relatively unknown side of Einstein’s personal being, Watson expects many audience members to be both surprised and enlightened.

Although the play is historically accurate, the production itself is quite abstract, especially during the second act. Reflecting Einstein’s mind and ideas, it jumps around through time and space, playing with the idea of time as a linear construct. The production also employs a wide array of visual media, which Watson hopes will prompt viewers to question whether the events on stage are “real or not real, or more inside Einstein’s own head?”

The production features an all-student cast and crew. Although it is heavily tied to the School of Film and Photography, it includes students from other departments. Notable production roles include Fulbright professor Theo Lipfort as Media Designer and student Yuri Matsko as Set Designer. Both create a dynamic, abstract and involving atmosphere.

Spencer Mirabel, a sophomore in the film program, takes on the title role of Albert Einstein with energy and passion. Both he and Steven Hilton, who plays Einstein’s scientific rival Werner Heisenberg, note that researching such iconic roles was difficult, especially when it came down to the science itself. “I could explain it to a 10-year-old,” noted Hilton, “but that’s about it.”

Although they have never acted together, they both go through the same ritual before each performance: finding a quiet spot to themselves and listening to music. So what, you might ask, does Albert Einstein listen to before stepping on stage? “I listen to a lot of classical music, but [Einstein] is rather iconic, so I also listen to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’” Mirabel said.

“The Einstein Project” performances run Thursday, Friday and Saturday through March 2 at the Black Box Theater from 7:30 – 10:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for the general public, and can be purchased at the First Interstate Bank in the SUB or at the front desk of the VCB at the corner of 11th and Grant.