Heliocentrism isn’t a radical idea anymore, but that wasn’t the case 400 years ago. Olympia Family Theater will premiere its production of Kari Margolis’s Starry Messenger, with Brian Tyrrell directing.
Starry Messenger is a historically based play about imagination and discovery. It follows the life of Galileo Galilei as he deals with criticisms of heliocentrism (the theory that planets of the solar system orbit the sun). Galilei first published his work Sidereus Nuncius in 1610, documenting the phases of Venus and moons of Jupiter by using observations from early telescopes. This ultimately led to his condemnation by the Catholic Church.
“Here we are faced with the challenge of taking somebody’s specific life,” said Tyrrell, “doing the research, and then telling the tale about the message of the stars.” Tyrrell is a former company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is now perhaps the region’s best-regarded theater director. His work has previously appeared on regional and national stages, including the National Shakespeare Festival, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Capital Playhouse, Harlequin Productions, Fifth Avenue Theater and decades of work building the Centralia College theater program. This will be the first time for Tyrrell to direct at Olympia Family Theater, though the director has long had Starry Messenger in mind as a possible production.
The director stated he was drawn to the play by the marriage of fact and fiction, and that he’ll place an emphasis on educating audience members of all ages while inspiring them to stick with their dreams. The play will stretch across space and time, illustrating how Galilei’s dreams informed space travel.
Bringing the grand spectacle of the cosmos to the stage will be no easy challenge, but Jen Ryle, OFT’s artistic director, isn’t worried. “I find that kids are really willing to go with you,” she said. “You can trust them to take that leap of imagination that’s necessary to see that kite at the end of your pantomime string. We just need to tell the story well and they’ll follow us.”
“For me it’s less about Galileo and more about dreaming,” said Tyrrell, “and allowing our inner dreams and hopes to emerge, even though there is a certain amount of derision with being an outsider, and that’s not a 400-year-old idea!”
Full disclosure: OLY ARTS managing editor Christian Carvajal plays one of Galileo’s three incarnations in this production. The others are played by Oliver Garcia and Tom Lockhart.
What: Starry Messenger
Where: Olympia Family Theater,
612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays Jan. 27 – Feb. 10;
2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Jan. 28 – Feb. 12
How much: $13-$19 (Feb. 2 is pay-what-you-can)
Learn more: 360-570-1638 | OFT