The Relativity Series Features 24 Free Plays About Great Scientists and Scientific Endeavors


I grew up lis­ten­ing to radio plays, keep­ing in high rota­tion vin­tage broad­casts of shows like Sus­pense, Amos ‘n Andy, and Drag­net. These stoked in me a fas­ci­na­tion with the medi­um of radio, and they also taught me a thing or two about life in ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca — most­ly lessons, by way of the com­mer­cials, about its var­i­ous con­sumer prod­ucts (usu­al­ly soaps). With the mod­ern inter­net, kids today can not only lis­ten to their fill of old-time radio pro­grams essen­tial­ly with­out effort — no boot­leg cas­sette tapes for them, like I had to use — but eas­i­ly find new­er, more inno­v­a­tive, and I dare­say more inter­est­ing audio pro­duc­tions as well. Case in point: the Los Ange­les The­atre Works’ Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Series, offer­ing sci­ence-themed plays you can lis­ten to free online, fea­tur­ing per­for­mances by well-known actors like Alfred Moli­na, Jason Rit­ter, and Ed Asner.

But don’t mis­take any of the Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Series’ 24 cur­rent­ly avail­able pro­duc­tions as straight­for­ward­ly “edu­ca­tion­al.” Know­ing that no lis­ten­er, man, woman, or child, wants a sim­ple physics or biol­o­gy les­son tart­ed up with a thin scrim of dra­ma, the pro­duc­ers have instead record­ed new ver­sions of full-fledged works for the stage that hap­pen to have sci­en­tif­ic themes or involve events and play­ers from the his­to­ry of sci­ence. How it delight­ed me to find, for instance, Tom Stop­pard’s Arca­dia in the Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Series. Stop­pard, per­haps the most intel­lec­tu­al­ly omniv­o­rous writer alive, became a fas­ci­na­tion of mine around the same time I delved into old-time radio, and Arca­dia remains the finest play deal­ing with chaos the­o­ry to take place on an Eng­lish coun­try estate in two cen­turies at once. Oth­er pro­duc­tions deal with the lives of sci­en­tists like Alan Tur­ing and Richard Feyn­man as well as events like the Scopes Mon­key Tri­al and the devel­op­ment of the atom­ic bomb. Above, you can lis­ten to a unique per­for­mance where mem­bers of the Star Trek cast recre­ate Orson Welles’ dra­mat­ic 1938 “War of the Worlds” broad­cast.

You can access all 24 plays in the Rel­a­tiv­i­ty Series here.

via Metafliter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Orson Welles Vin­tage Radio: The War of the Worlds That Pet­ri­fied a Nation

Wern­er Her­zog and Cor­mac McCarthy Talk Sci­ence and Cul­ture

Ira Glass on the Art and Craft of Telling Great Radio Sto­ries

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio Show Pod­cast Tack­les the His­to­ry of Video Games

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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