April 9, 2024

Lewis Center for the Arts’ Princeton Atelier presents Mr g: A Play About the Creation

The Lewis Center for the Arts will present Mr g: A Play About the Creation, an end-of-semester culmination of work developed with students in the spring Princeton Atelier course, “Space, Time and Creation — A Theatrical Adaptation of Mr g,” taught by theater director Cara Reichel and lighting and set designer Jiyoun Chang. This new theatrical adaptation of Alan Lightman’s novel will be presented as an immersive staged reading on one night only. The event begins at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 19, in the University Chapel on Princeton’s campus. The event is free and open to the public, however advance registration is suggested. Guests in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.

Mr g, Lightman’s playful and profound novel, is the story of creation told from a new perspective. An all-powerful but not all-knowing creator, Mr g discovers that with his creation of space, time, and matter come unforeseen consequences. As he watches his favorite universe grow into maturity, he begins to understand how the act of creation can change the creator. Combining science, theology, and moral philosophy, Mr g is an imaginative work that explores the nature of existence.

A student plays a violin in the main aisle of Princeton University Chapel

Princeton senior Adrian Thananopavarn on viola in rehearsal, and who is also composing original music, for the immersive staged reading of a theatrical adaptation of Alan Lightman’s novel, Mr g, to be performed at Princeton University Chapel. Photo by Jon Sweeney

Throughout the Atelier course led by visiting lecturers Reichel and Chang, students creatively explored the script of Mr g, investigated the novel’s underlying subject matter, and learned from professional guests on topics relevant to their creative process and dramaturgy. Guests included author Lightman, sound designer and composer Chad Raines, and Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor Andrew Chignell, co-director of the Princeton Project in Philosophy and Religion at the University Center for Human Values.

During the reading, audiences will be invited to move through the Chapel and to experience the text of the novel, adapted for the stage by Reichel, as well as immersive design elements, including lighting design by Chang, from a variety of viewpoints within the space. Directed by Reichel, the presentation will feature Broadway actor Heath Saunders reading the role of Mr g, alongside an ensemble of undergraduate and alumni performers collaborating to create a site-specific presentation. Original music and sound design are created by Adrian Thananopavarn ’24, Samantha Spector ’24, and guest artist Chad Raines.

Alan Lightman is an American writer, physicist, and social entrepreneur. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1974. Since then, Lightman has done fundamental research on the astrophysics of black holes, astrophysical radiation processes, and stellar dynamics. Lightman has served on the faculties of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first person at MIT to receive dual faculty appointments in science and in the humanities. He is currently professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. He is the author of numerous books, both nonfiction and fiction, including Einstein’s Dreams, an international bestseller; The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction; and Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, the basis of a three-part series titled “Searching: Our Quest for Meaning in the Age of Science,” which premiered on public television in January 2023. Lightman has won numerous awards for his work and has six honorary degrees. He is a Princeton alumnus from the Class of 1970.

Reichel, a Princeton alum, is the founding producing artistic director of New York City’s critically-acclaimed, OBIE and Drama Desk Award-winning Prospect Theater Company. For more than two decades she has been a leader in the field of new musical theater development. She collaborates frequently with fellow founding Prospect artist, composer/lyricist and fellow Princeton alum Peter Mills. They have created over a dozen new musicals including: The Hello Girls (2019 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for Outstanding Direction, Book, Score, and Production; three Drama Desk Award nominations including Outstanding Production), Death for Five Voices, The Underclassman, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, The Flood, and Illyria. Reichel directed the New York City premiere of Einstein’s Dreams, a musical based on the book by Alan Lightman, which received multiple 2020 Drama Desk Award nominations.

Chang is a lighting and set designer whose Broadway credits include Jaja’s African Hair Braiding, The Cottage, KPOP Broadway, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf (Tony Award Nomination), and Slave Play (Tony, Drama Desk, Henry Hewes nominations). Chang’s recent credits include Stereophonic (Playwrights Horizons), Walk On Through (MCC), The Far Country (Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk nominations), Ride The Cyclone (Arena Stage), The Factotum (Chicago Lyric Opera), Bina’s Six Apples (Suzi Bass Award), Marys Seacole (Henry Hewes nomination), The World is Round (Obie Award), and other works at The Public Theater, Roundabout Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, MCC, Signature, 2nd Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club, La Jolla Playhouse, Arizona Theatre Company, Guggenheim Museum, Berkeley Rep, CalShakes, Guthrie Theater, The Old Globe, and elsewhere.

Heath Saunders reads from a script and gestures while seated in the Princeton University chapel pews.

Broadway actor Heath Saunders in rehearsal for the immersive staged reading of a theatrical adaptation of Alan Lightman’s novel, Mr g, to be performed at Princeton University Chapel. Photo by Jon Sweeney

Saunders is an actor, composer, multi-instrumentalist, director, teacher, producer, and diversity dramaturg. They recently joined the faculty at The New School, in addition to teaching with the Musical Creators Institute and Actor Therapy. Selected theater credits include Company (Broadway), Once (Hangar Theater), Jesus Christ Superstar (NBC Live!, Chicago Lyric), Alice By Heart (MCC), and The Great Comet (Broadway). In 2020, Saunders released an EP entitled Does Not Play Well With Others (I Hope You’re Not ‘Others’). Saunders is co-founder and chief creative officer of the tech start-up Spectra Media Collective.

The Princeton Atelier, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2024, was founded by Princeton Professor Emerita Toni Morrison and is directed by Paul Muldoon, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Creative Writing. This unique academic program brings together professional artists, often from different disciplines, to create new work in the context of a semester-long course. A painter might team with a composer, a choreographer might join with an electrical engineer, a company of theater artists might engage with environmental scientists, or a poet might connect with a videographer. Princeton students have an unrivaled opportunity to be directly involved in these collaborations.

Mr g: A Play About the Creation is also sponsored by the Princeton Project in Philosophy and Religion (3PR), which brings together an interdisciplinary group of students and scholars who share a research interest in the philosophy of religion broadly construed.

Visit the Lewis Center website to learn more about the Princeton Atelier, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, lectures, and special events presented by the Lewis Center each year, most of them free.

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