Saturday, December 09, 2017
An interesting history lesson unfolds at convergence continuum
Early this year U. S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with the backing of President Trump, rescinded the mandate of the “National Commission of Forensic Sciences.” It was the purpose of this group to “enhance the practice and improve the reliability of forensic science,” and “to promote scientific validity, reduce fragmentation, and improve federal coordination of forensic science.”
Why, in this day of ever-expanding scientific discoveries and the perilous state of the world, would the federal government do away with an independent agency responsible for promoting scientific validity?
To understand the situation, one must thinking of the duo who pushed the issue. Both Sessions and Trump do not believe in global warming, they don’t believe in scientific proof. They are among the group of intellectual “light-weights” who make observations, reach conclusions with little thought, are not concerned with separating fact from “intuition.” In other words, why spend time and money in finding out “facts,” when facts don’t make money and are a waste of time.
Facts, according to that dynamic duo, are “false news.” Or, put another way, building hotels and golf courses are of more value to society than scientific discovery.
For many years, scientific discovery was the result of companies investing in research (e.g., General Electric and Westinghouse in electricity, Ford in automobiles, Goodyear and Goodrich in rubber and polymer), or individuals using personal wealth or getting “backers” to finance their ideas to probe the unknown.
Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American, was an inventor, engineer, physicist and futurist who laid the foundations for modern alternating current and the electrical supply system.
“The Chaste Genius and His DeathRay Gun,” now on stage at congruence continuum, tells the tale of an obsessive, germ phobic genius who lived most of his life trying to get financial backing from the likes of JP Morgan, to develop his ideas.
Many of his concepts went no-place, but some eventually allowed others to develop printers that don’t have to be connected to a computer, or headphones without the annoying chord connecting them to an I-phone, or the I-phone, itself.
No, his “Death Ray Gun,” which some in the military community predicted would shorten wars by allowing lasers or particle beams to destroy the enemy, didn’t work out, but it did lay the foundation for J. J. Thompson to discover the electron, which has been important in the fields of electricity, magnetism, chemistry, thermal conductivity, and atomic energy.
Often thought of as the archetypal “mad scientist,” Tesla died penniless in New York City.
He did not go unrecognized. An American Rock band, electric car, intellectual society, song, airport, museum, power plant, 128 streets, moon crater, minor planet, and a STEM high school are named for him.
Playwright Christopher Johnson thought Tesla was interesting enough to center “The Chaste Genius and his Death Ray Gun” on the scientist’s life. It is now in its world premiere at convergence continuum.
The production, under the direction of Geoffrey Hoffman, is not thrilling theatre. The script is mostly talk, with interludes of some gimmickry in which some of Tesla’s inventions are supposedly demonstrated. Unfortunately, though the effort is grand, the theatre-on-a-shoe-string doesn’t have the money and techies to produce the devices to create replicas of Tesla’s creations, so they often come off as magic tricks rather than scientific wonders.
The strength of the show is the acting. Robert Hawkes as Tesla, and Robert Branch, Val Kozlenko and Nicole McLaughlin-Lublin, playing multi-roles (e.g., Mark Twain, J. P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt) are quite effective.
Capsule Judgement: Though it’s more history lecture than theatrical production, “The Chaste Genius and his Death Ray Gun,” teaches an important lesson about the need for eccentric, out of the box thinkers, who need encouragement and the financial means to create theories, inventions and formulas that can have the capacity to change the world. It’s worth the long, sometimes lifeless sit, to gain that understanding.
“The Chaste Genius and his Death Ray Gun” runs through December 16, 2017, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to http://www.convergence-continuum.org
Next up at con-con: THE NEOMFA (Northeast Ohio Maser of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cleveland State University) PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL (February 8-18, 2018), followed by Paula Vogel’s “The Oldest Profession,” from March 23-April 14, 2018.