Wild Swan Theater Announces CODING TO THE MOON: MARGARET HAMILTON AND THE APOLLO MISSIONS
Award winning Wild Swan Theater breaks new ground with its world premiere of Coding to the Moon, Margaret Hamilton and the Apollo Missions from March 4-7, 2020. This original play, intended for young people in grades 4 - 12, celebrates Margaret Hamilton's role as Director of Software Engineering for the onboard computer guidance system, the system that navigated the Apollo rocket ship to the moon and back. Wild Swan's Co-Artistic Director, Hilary Cohen, is serving as both playwright and director for this project. She has had the unique opportunity to spend countless hours over a yearlong period of interviewing Margaret Hamilton by phone from her home in Cambridge, MA.
This is a great, dramatic story that offers a thrilling window into one of the great scientific achievements of all time, the landing of a man on the moon. Told from a distinct perspective--that of the computer scientists based at MIT and in particular of one, a brilliant woman. Every good play needs plot twists and turns, reversals, and cliffhangers. This play has them in abundance as the pressure mounted throughout the 1960s to beat the Soviet Union in the race to the moon, and the scientists at NASA's headquarters in Houston wondered if they had been wise to give so much control over the success of the mission to the team at MIT in Cambridge, MA.
The time period for Coding to the Moon stretches from the 1940s where Hamilton spent her childhood in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to the 1960s, the decade of the race to the moon. Locations are suggested through the use of rolling screens of scenery and a large video monitor onto which archival video clips of such events as rocket launches and the iconic walk on the moon will be projected. The scenic images are extremely realistic, adapted from archival photographs. For example, scenery to depict the Instrumentation Lab at MIT, where the onboard computer for the Apollo space missions was developed, include an exact replica of the original wall sized computer that had to be reduced to the size of a shoe box to fit into the rocket ship.
Margaret Hamilton, played by two different actresses, is portrayed at three stages in her life--as a child brimming with curiosity, as a young scientist taking charge of the Apollo computer guidance system, and as a mature scientist looking back on the astonishing decade during which American scientists landed a man on the moon. The cast includes six actors playing multiple roles. All the characters in the play are based on actual historical figures.
An original musical score for the production, composed by University of Michigan Professor Erik Santos, will be performed live on a vibraphone and other percussion instruments. The racing, shimmering, bell like quality of the vibraphone suggests both travel into space and the speed of information as it surged visually across the lighted paths of the early computers.
Coding to the Moon: Margaret Hamilton and the Apollo Missions is a collaboration with the Michigan Science Center, Leslie Nature & Science Center, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, and the UM Museum of Natural History. Each partner will be developing and offering complementary enrichment activities. A free, online Study Guide includes suggested classroom activities and resources. This play will be added to our touring repertoire and will travel to the Michigan Science Center from March 12-14, the MSU Science Festival on April 4, and other schools and theaters throughout southeast Michigan.
The first American woman in space, Sally Ride, reminds us that, Young girls need to see role models in whatever career they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can't be what you can't see. With the support of the Buhr Foundation, Detroit Auto Dealers Association Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Motor Company Fund, James A. and Faith Knight Foundation, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Michigan Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts, we are excited to tell a story that provides positive role models, challenges stereotypes, and gives a more inclusive picture of the nature of work in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics fields.
Wild Swan Theater is dedicated to producing professional theater for families of the highest artistic quality and to making it accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or economic status, through lowered ticket prices and innovative outreach programs. For more information about the company, its current season, touring programs and drama camps, visit the www.wildswantheater.org. For interviews, contact Patricia Kowalski at (734) 995-0530.