Tag Archives: Creation

Evolution of a play

"Dreaming Darwin" opens Feb 11 at ASU in Tempe

Ever wonder how a work performed on stage goes from initial idea to polished performance?

You’ve seen a bit of the process if you’ve been following the development of “Dreaming Darwin” since its 2009 staged reading at Arizona State University.

My son, Christopher, is likely tempted to correct me here. As a student of native plants and wildlife biology, he enjoys sharing the finer points of how evolution differs from adaptation.

I suppose there’s good reason I’ve never authored a “Science Mom” post. Still, I’m fascinated by the work of Charles Darwin — and intrigued by the attempt in “Dreaming Darwin” to explore the famous naturalist’s inner world.

School of Theatre and Film faculty members Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster assembled a team of ASU student artists to create this new work, intended as a “fantasy on a theme” about Charles Darwin.

“Dreaming Darwin” is being performed at ASU’s Prism Theatre in Tempe Feb 11-19.

After seeing the 2009 film “Creation” with Christopher last year at the Harkins Valley Art Theatre, I’ve come to think of Darwin as a family man first and a scientist second.

I haven’t any way of knowing what truly occupied his thoughts or his time, but I relish the opportunity to do some imagining of my own — inspired by the “Dreaming Darwin” performances at ASU.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the many offerings of the School of Theatre and Film at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU

Coming up: You be the judge, Mixed reviews for Ronald Reagan

Photo Credit: Original illustration by Ben Swift (www.nonsinthetik.co.uk) for SIN Cru, a Hip Hop dance, music and art company in Cambridge, UK (www.sincru.co.uk)

The fine art of Darwin?

Life can take some surprising turns…

I went with my 20-year-old son Christopher (a budding wildlife biologist) to see the movie “Creation” the other day, expecting to see Darwin portrayed as a man pummeling his peers with hypotheses about the origin of species.

What I discovered, instead, was a refreshing alternative to today’s divisive and polarizing treatments of the topic of evolution.

If the movie depicts Charles Darwin—a British naturalist who lived from 1809 to 1882–with any degree of accuracy, he wasn’t anything like modern-day caricatures that paint him as an egotistical heretic hell-bent on destroying faith in God or respect for the church.

It seems quite possible, after seeing this film, that he valued faith and its institutions as the very fabrics of a society that might run amok without them–at least until tragedy struck too close to home.

I’m no Darwin scholar, so I can’t claim any insight into the ‘real’ Charles Darwin.

But the man I saw on film this week seemed humble rather than heretical, and far more tempered in his skepticism than peers who used his work to further their own anti-faith agenda.

If you’ve ever struggled to balance work with family, to embrace friends or family members with vastly different world views, to reconcile your own dreams with the expectations others have for you, “Creation” may speak to you in unexpected ways.

This movie surprised me on several fronts.

I hadn’t realized it was so exquisite visually—with its lush depictions of everything from forests and oceans to indigenous peoples and European architecture. Nor had I expected such a stunning soundtrack—alternating moving moments of silence with delicate violin and piano solos.

But what truly touched me was the tender relationship of Darwin to his children, especially eldest daughter Anne who appears to have shared his curiosity and love of the natural world. His interactions with animals—including an orangutan named “Jenny”—were equally profound.

Darwin with daughter "Annie"

Darwin and his wife Emma had ten children together, two of whom died in infancy. I loved watching Darwin tell “Annie” stories of the people and animals he encountered in his travels.

Whatever your view of the theory of evolution, you’ll likely find this movie is less about the origin of species than the bond between father and beloved daughter. It’s quite enchanting and, in time, heartwrenching.

I was no less surprised, when checking for movie times online, to uncover something called “The Charles Darwin Experience.” It’s an all-improvisation comedy troupe at the University of Arizona in Tucson that performs Tuesday evenings at 10pm at the Gallagher Theater at the U of A Student Union Memorial Center.

For those more serious moments, there’s something called the “Darwinfest,” presented last year by Arizona State University to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his On the Origin of Species. Transcripts and podcasts are available online.

So there you have it—the fine art of Charles Darwin—via everything from film to iTunes. I’ll bet he never saw that one coming…

–Lynn

Note: “Creation” plays for a limited time at the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe. Visit www.harkinstheaters.com for show times.

  • To learn more about Darwin and related topics, visit the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change at www.shesc.asu.edu.
  • Save the date…The ASU Herberger Institute of Theatre and Film “New Work Series” will feature “Dreaming Darwin” by Lance Gharavi and Jacob Pinholster Feb. 11th to 19th next year at Prism Theatre on the ASU Tempe campus. Visit http://theatrefilm.asu.edu/ learn more about this piece as well as the institute’s newly-announced MainStage 2010-2011 Season.
  • If you’re planning a trip to Washington, D.C., consider a visit to the newly-opened Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History. Visit http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent/humanorigins/?src=e_h to learn more.

Coming Friday: Sampling of family-friendly arts events happening this weekend