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Galileo Galilei comes to life in Jewel

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Nathan Sunde (‘21) plays Andrea Sarti, a student of Galileo Galilei, who is played by Erik Mueterthies (‘18) in “Life of
Galileo.”

Nathan Sunde (‘21) plays Andrea Sarti, a student of Galileo Galilei, who is played by Erik Mueterthies (‘18) in “Life of Galileo.”

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Nathan Sunde (‘21) plays Andrea Sarti, a student of Galileo Galilei, who is played by Erik Mueterthies (‘18) in “Life of Galileo.”

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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“The Life of Galileo,” written by Bertolt Brecht, is a play that explores themes of new discoveries and the struggle against power structures that reject those discoveries. The Luther College Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) put on a production of the play in Jewel Theatre, which opened on Oct. 5 and ran through Oct. 7 in Jewel Theater. VPA’s theme for this year is “Reformation and Revolution,” and this was the first production of the year under said theme.

The show revolves around Galileo Galilei’s life and struggle to have his scientific theories recognized in the face of opposition from the Catholic Church. It is fitting for the theme of “Reformation and Revolution” because Galileo must go against the religious conventions of the time, similar to the way Martin Luther challenged the Church during the time of the Reformation. The story is not completely true to his life, but the program included a brief biography of Galileo for the audience’s reference.

Pablo Gomez Estevez (‘18) composed music for the show. The actors sang his music during the scene changes, adding a new element to the play. The set design created a space-like scene, including chairs and a cello suspended from the ceiling to represent planets in orbit.

The play is described as a tragedy, but there were also moments of hope and humor in the performance. The play ends with Galilei’s imprisonement after he was forced to recant his theories. However, there is a hope at the end when his old student, played by Nathan Sunde (‘21), smuggles some of Galileo’s papers out of the country. The cast worked to maintain a balance between serious and light moments and to make sure that the show would resonate with a contemporary audience at Luther.

Professor of Theater Jeff Dintaman said that his greatest challenge in directing the play was keeping the balance between correctly portraying the historical context of the play while highlighting the contemporary relevance of the content. The play was written in 1938 and then later translated from German by David Hare.

“I think that what Hare is doing is he wants us to look at this story that takes place in the 1600s, but also look at it through the lens of Brecht the writer, and then through that 21st century lens,” Dintaman said.

Erik Mueterthies (‘18), a theater major who played Galilei, described the thematic relevance of the play.

“The show is very timely, and that’s definitely one of the reasons we chose it to be done this season,” Mueterthies said. “Whether it’s science denial, or it’s power structures that are unpredictable, it’s very relevant.”

The cast of 12 students began rehearsing during the beginning of September, having around four weeks to prepare the show. They had longer and more frequent rehearsals than usual in order to prepare the play in such a short amount of time. Many of the cast members are theater majors and minors, but there were also some who are not theater majors and some for whom this is their first production at Luther. Many members of the cast played multiple roles.

Morgan Fanning (‘20), who played four different roles throughout the play, described a few of the connections that the cast has made to the theme of “Reformation and Revolution” and to issues that society faces today. She hopes that the play will send a message about giving difficult ideas a chance.

“Don’t shut something down because you don’t like it,” Fanning said. “Even if the truth may seem ugly, you can’t ignore it.”

The next show that VPA will be producing is the musical “Rent,” which will run from Nov. 10-19. In the spring, there will be a dance production and another play, all under the theme of “Reformation and Revolution,” in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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