Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

James Reston Jr.'s Famous Historical Play GALILEO'S TORCH Comes to Castleton


James Reston Jr.'s Famous Historical Play GALILEO'S TORCH Comes to Castleton For three nights in July, internationally renowned author James Reston Jr.'s famous biography, Galileo: A Life, will be transformed for stage in Galileo's Torch, and featured at Castleton. The multimedia Castleton in Performance (CiP) theatrical event takes place on Friday, July 28, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 29, at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, July 30, at 5 p.m. For more than 400 years, famous Renaissance astronomer Galileo Galilei has awed and inspired the world. As the founder of modern science and the embodiment of the conflict between science and faith, he remains one of the most fascinating and tragic historical figures. Featuring John Lescault as Galileo and Judge David Tatel as the Grand Inquisitor, the performances are directed by Castleton CEO and Artistic Director Dietlinde Maazel. Music from the Renaissance period will be performed by Castleton favorites Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton, deemed a "Washington institution" by The Washington Post. Tickets for this CiP concert range from $20 to $40, and the performance will be held in the Theatre House at Castleton (663 Castleton View Road, Castleton, Va.), an intimate, state-of-the-art 140-seat proscenium theatre. Call 703.489.8704 for more information and visit to purchase tickets.

With six iterations of the play that have been performed nationally, Reston says, "The core of the play remains the same. Galileo's Torch is about one of the great tragedies of history: the crushing of the great scientist for advocating the Copernican theory of the universe in contradiction of Roman Catholic geocentric dogma. The interrogation of Galileo by the Grand Inquisitor in the play comes from the actual transcript of the four inquisitional sessions that I discovered in Rome when I was researching my biography of Galileo."

Reston's play, Galileo's Torch, is based on Reston's famous biography, Galileo: A Life, which chronicles Galileo's first astronomical observations and his troubles with the Inquisition. The play has been translated into eight languages. "It is a searing psychodrama," Reston remarked, "I always wanted to see that amazing interrogation brought to life on the stage. The Castleton production affords me another splendid opportunity to explore the possibilities of this drama."

Reston is the author of 18 books, three plays, and numerous articles in national magazines. He is the winner of Prix Italia and the Dupont-Columbia Award for his chilling 1983 90-minute radio documentary on National Public Radio, Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown. His last five historical works, including Galileo: A Life, have been translated into 13 languages. In recent years, Reston has lectured widely in the United States (Smithsonian, Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Center) and overseas on the millennium, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Ottomans at Vienna, citing their relevance to modern issues

In 1976-1977, Reston was David Frost's Watergate adviser for the famous Frost/?Nixon interviews, seen by 57 million people world-wide. His narrative of that experience was published in 2007 and entitled The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/?Nixon Interviews and was the main inspiration to the British playwright, Peter Morgan, in the making of his hit London play, Frost/?Nixon..

"I am thrilled to have this multi-dimensional performance and Reston's creative genius on show at Castleton," said Director Maazel. "Reston's work is world-renowned, and Lescault and Judge Tatel's performances are stellar." In 1997, she and her husband, Maestro Lorin Maazel, converted the once-overlooked chicken house into today's Castleton Theatre House, one of the most exquisite performance spaces in the world.

Maazel achieved fame in her native Germany with her first stage appearance at 19 as Gretchen in Goethe's Faust at the Residenz Theatre in Munich. She later starred as Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello, for which she received the Bad Hersfeld Festival's Prize for Best Actress. Maazel also won the Bambi Award (European equivalent of the Oscar's) for Best Actress of the Year in 1983. Her film credits include Euridice in Ponnelle's adaptation of Orfeo, a starring role in the American thriller Bloodline, and Mussolini and I, in which she played opposite Anthony Hopkins. In 2004, Maazel performed her first one-woman play, Constantly Risking Absurdity, at the Cherry Lane Theatre, New York; George Mason University; and for the American Austrian Foundation in Salzburg. In 2013, she performed Jean Cocteau's La Voix Humaine at the Castleton Festival. Her most recent work as stage director includes the John Blow opera Venus and Adonis and Rameau's Les Indes Galantes with Opera Lafayette in DC and NYC. In 1996, Maazel founded a private school on her estate in Castleton, and developed a pilot educational project designed to explore new ways of integrating vital artistic and aesthetic values into school curricula. In addition to her role as artistic director and CEO of the Castleton Festival, she is on the faculty of Rutgers University.

Lescault recently appeared in Galileo's Torch at the Folger and has played Tecumseh Sherman in Reston's Sherman The Peacemaker at Stone Hill. Lescault has also performed at the Kennedy Center, the Prague Spring International Music Festival, the Lincoln Center in New York, and in numerous plays throughout the Washington, D.C., region, including at The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, and Ford's Theatre. Lescault has been a narrator of audiobooks for the Talking Books Program for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress since 1992.

Judge Tatel, a longtime Rappahannock resident, was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in October 1994. Following law school, he taught for a year at the University of Michigan Law School and then went into private practice with the firm of Sidley & Austin in Chicago. From 1969 to 1970, he served as director of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, then returned to Sidley & Austin until 1972, when he became director of the National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. From 1974 to 1977, he returned to private practice as associate and partner with Hogan & Hartson, where he led the firm's Community Services Department. In 1977, Tatel became the director of the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Seven other talented actors and actresses take to the stage in Galileo's Torch. Weston Vrooman (Sagredo) is a recent graduate from the University of Oklahoma School of Drama. Hugh Hill (Urban VIII) has appeared and directed in many Washington-area venues, most recently in the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory's Hamlet. Now a Rappahannock resident, Hugh has performed in outdoor Stone Hill productions, including James Reston Jr.'s Sherman, the Peace Maker. Paul Morella (Father Nicolo) has performed professionally in regional theatre, film, television, and radio for more than 35 years and is a multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee. Craig Wallace (Cardinal Bellarmine) is a Washington, D.C.-based actor who has performed in numerous productions in the region, as well as regional theatres across the country. Edie Tatel (Sister Angelica/Scribe) has had many years as an educator. Naomi Jacobson (Maria Celeste) is an affiliated Artist at Shakespeare Theatre Company, and a 20-year member of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She has performed nationally and has received three Helen Hayes Award. John Jacquemin (The Doge) is a talented Rappahannock actor.

Castleton is ideally suited for a weekend trip and a variety of accommodations are available on the idyllic grounds of Castleton Farms. Cottage and home rates begin at $100/night and include access to amenities such as the spa (large heated lap pool, Turkish steam room, Finnish sauna), bowling alley, petting zoo, six miles of hiking trails, and tennis courts. To inquire about booking, please contact Connie Payne at 540.577.8820 or

The grounds of Castleton Farms have been home to a prestigious performance series since 1997, when the late Maestro Lorin Maazel inaugurated the Theatre House (a former chicken coop for 15,000 hens converted into a "mini-Globe" European-style Pocket Theatre with unparalleled acoustics) together with his renowned friends, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Yefim Bronfman. Since then, CiP has given audiences in Rappahannock County multicultural experiences of the highest caliber bringing internationally acclaimed artists into our own backyard. Artists have included Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman, José Carreras, Emanuel Ax, Sir James Galway, Gil Shaham, the Paris Piano Trio, Mariachi Los Camperos Group, Chinese traditional soloists Wu Man and Ma Xiaohui, classical guitarists Pepe Romero and Berta Rojas, Indian dance companies, and famous actors such as Alec Baldwin and Claire Bloom.

In 2009 Maestro Maazel and his wife Dietlinde Turban Maazel established the Castleton Festival, a combination of music festival and summer academy for young artists. During this period, Dietlinde developed a wildly popular acting training studio for opera singers. Ranked by The New York Times as one of the top 10 festivals in the country, the Castleton Festival formed an educational partnership with Wynton Marsalis, his Summer Jazz Academy, in 2015. The monthly CiP (Castleton in Performance) events continue throughout the year as well as the Educational Community Outreach programming that furthers Castleton's mission of nurturing the arts in the lives of children through in-school programs.

Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories

BroadwayWorld Store

More Hot Stories For You