Vermont Arts Council

The Eclipse—Portal of Renewal or Doom? Highland Center for the Arts Show Wants to Know

A building at sunset
Highland Center for the Arts is collaborating on the premiere of “When Light Bends,” March 22-24, 2024

Before the 2024 total solar eclipse darkens Vermont skies on April 8, the Highland Center for the Arts (HCA) in Greensboro will unveil a stellar show of its own—one with love, science, and a little bit of magic that promises to leave viewers questioning their place in the universe.

HCA has partnered with Media Art Xploration (MAX), a producer of immersive art productions that interrogate the scientific advances of our times, to bring the premiere performance of the play “When Light Bends” to Greensboro, VT, which lies on the path of totality.

“When Light Bends” tells the story of Albert Einstein’s struggle to complete his General Theory of Relativity and astronomer Arthur Eddington’s fight to confirm that theory by observing the positions of the stars during the 1919 solar eclipse. The Einstein-Eddington story is paired with another story—one about two lovers searching for a closer connection to each other, as they rush to reach the path of totality during 2024’s eclipse before it’s too late. In both tales, the protagonists are forced to update their beliefs, and uncover hidden truths, in the face of the complex, the simple, and the sublime, according to the play’s web page.

To weave its supernatural tale, the play combines optical illusions, magic, and projections accompanied by intermittent music.

“There’s a lot of energy around the eclipse and it has a rich history, and this is a great opportunity to understand the significance of it. It’s playful, scientific, and a little experimental,” said HCA Executive Director Keisha Luce.

When Light Bends poster featuring an eclipseCreated and commissioned by MAX to be performed in advance of the 2024 solar eclipse, the work is being developed in collaboration with HCA and is supported by the Simons Foundation as part of its ‘In the Path of Totality’ initiative with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

HCA was awarded a significant grant from the Simons Foundation to bring the show to Vermont.

Bringing the play to HCA has been in the works for two years, and the production crew includes some of the nation’s top talent, including Obie and Tony-award winners.

“It sort of blows my mind the kind of talent that we will have in this building,” said Luce.

“As an artist, it is very exciting how they take this subject matter and create such a thought-provoking work. To be able to commission such a creative piece and a very different kind of performance for us—it’s truly groundbreaking. There’s no way we could have done this without that kind of funding,” Luce explained.

With the financial backing, HCA was able to arrange for a special preview performance for the local high school, and students will also be able to intern for the production—something she said they might be keen to do, as lighting and set designer Justin Townsend has collaborated with Drake, the Grammy-award winning recording artist.

In addition to Townsend on set, “When Light Bends” is produced by Kay Matschullat, directed by Elena Araoz, written by John Lopez and Gracie Leavitt, with Steve Cuiffo as Illusion Designer, and composer Tamar Muskal inventing an original score. And naturally, the performance has an astrophysicist on staff, Jared Goldberg, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics.

The play runs for three performances, March 22-24, at HCA, 2875 Hardwick St. in Greensboro. Next it will head to the Boston Museum of Science on March 27. Tickets are available at https://highlandartsvt.org/

“When Light Bends” is supported by an Arts Project Grant from the Vermont Arts Council.