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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB to Host World Premiere of Theater Piece About Marie Curie

Department of Theater and Dance collaborates with Proboscis Theatre Co. on the work, opening Friday

The UC Santa Barbara Department of Theater and Dance will collaborate with the Proboscis Theatre Company to present the world premiere of Piezoelectric Love: The (Half) Life of Marie Curie, conceived, devised and directed by UCSB faculty member Jeff Mills.

Marie Curie, in 1920 — the eyes a torch for unimagined labyrinths.
Marie Curie, in 1920 — the eyes a torch for unimagined labyrinths.

The piece features original music by Jim Connolly and Anna Abbey, choreography by Christina McCarthy, and a student cast that includes Brian Bock, Megan Caniglia, Kelli Coleman, Elizabeth Cowperthwaite, Allie Granat, Dylan Hale, Amy Lingard, Hasmik Anna Saakian and Hollie Sokol.

The show will open this Friday, May 11, and run through May 19 in the Performing Arts Theater (which means, among other things, no late seating).

Superlatives and absolutes are rare in the crowded corridors of modern history. I am going to go out on a limb and call Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867-1934) the most remarkable woman of whom we possess photographic images and audio recordings. (Champions of Gertrude Bell or Eleanor Roosevelt or some other qualified representative of the gender may make their cases in another venue.)

Curie was a Polish-French physicist and chemist who laid the foundation for all future research on radioactivity; she was the first person ever awarded two Nobel Prizes — one in physics, one in chemistry. She became the first woman professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and is the first woman to be buried in the Panthéon in Paris — not because of who she was but because of what she accomplished.

She also coined the term “radioactivity,” proposed a theory of its behavior, developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and discovered two elements — polonium and radium. She directed the first attempts ever to treat cancer using radioactive isotopes, and founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which flourish today as major centers of medical research.

During World War I, after a self-imposed crash course in radiology, anatomy and automotive mechanics, she got a hold of X-ray equipment, vehicles, auxiliary generators and developed mobile radiography units. She died in 1934, of aplastic anemia, the result of decades of exposure to radiation.

Here is what the university says about the show: “Piezoelectric Love is a mask play, a clown piece, a dance concert, a ‘Chekhovian’ style drama and a docu-play all in one. Actors and dancers will render the intimate moments of Madame Curie’s life and present the history of atomic and nuclear science from the discovery of radioactivity (a word coined by Curie) to the Manhattan Project to modern uses and consequences of nuclear power. [It] is not suitable for children.”

Piezoelectric Love plays at 8 p.m. Thursday (preview), Friday, May 15-19, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and May 19. Tickets are $13 to $17. For tickets, visit the box office, click here or call 805.893.7221.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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