Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121
Andrew Ng (415) 379-5123


SAN FRANCISCO (October 27, 2011) — Motion Institute is working in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences on an innovative new performance work called The Kepler Project, which will be performed in the Academy’s Morrison Planetarium during the after-hours NightLife events on November 3 and 10 at 6:30 pm, and November 17 at 6:30 and 7:30 pm.

Stretching the boundaries of site-specific work and new technology, the piece tells the story of the mystical 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler. Written and directed by Nina Wise and performed by Scott Coopwood, the piece integrates spectacular visuals developed by the Morrison Planetarium visualization studio, deeply moving music by cellist Zoe Keating, and sound design by multiple Emmy Award winner Christopher Hedge.

The story revolves around Kepler’s unique capacity to integrate a worldview steeped in mysticism with a rigorous scientific perspective based on observation and experimentation. The story of his life, including his discovery of the three laws of planetary motion (which removed Earth once and for all from its anthropocentric position at the center of the Universe), took an even more dramatic turn when his mother was arrested for witchcraft and Kepler forced to defend her. On the way to her trial, reading Galileo’s father’s book on harmony, Kepler experienced one of his greatest epiphanies—that the Universe itself is harmonious and singing. History, religion, passion, and science intersect in this remarkable individual’s life.

The Morrison Planetarium Visualization Studio is one of the few studios in the world developing programs for fulldome theaters—especially DigitalSky-equipped domes, which make use of state-of-the-art, real-time technology to create immersive graphics tailored to individual performances. The production team, headed by Ryan Wyatt, director of the planetarium, also includes Tim Horn, who previously led the production team at the Hamburg Planetarium, as well as Tom Kennedy, formerly of Industrial Light & Magic.

"My work in the planetarium field focuses on the creation of 'narrative journeys,' virtual voyages in immersive environments that place audiences at the center of the storytelling," said Ryan Wyatt, Director of Morrison Planetarium. "Kepler’s story has resonated with me since childhood. The intellectual, spiritual, and social transformations in his work connect people on a variety of levels. The fulldome medium with its immersive visuals has remarkable potential to integrate an artful approach toward the history of science with pioneering visualization."

Playwright/director Nina Wise, since earning her degree in Religious Studies and the Aesthetics of Movement, has devoted her career to developing theater that addresses the complex relationship between body, intellect, and spirit. Her original works, performed in prestigious venues in the US, South America, Europe and Asia have won awards for playwriting, innovative design, and new theater including seven Bay Area Theater Critics’ Awards. Wise is the recipient of multiple NEA and Marin Arts Council Fellowships. She has been the Artistic Director of Motion since 1987.

Zoe Keating, avant cellist and composer, is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Increasingly considered a role model for DIY artists, Zoe's self-released albums have sold over 35,000 copies and she has amassed an incredible 1.3 million Twitter followers.

Scott Coopwood is a prodigious talent. An actor with years of Shakespearian roles under his belt, Kepler’s 17th-century language rolls off his tongue in a resonant and elegant cadence. Coopwood’s performance is nuanced, passionate and deeply emotional as he brings the story of this remarkable genius to life. Coopwood has played title roles in Hamlet, MacBeth, and Cyrano De Bergerac, Iago in Othello, Edmund in King Lear, and Angelo in Measure for Measure. Scott has worked with Arkansas Rep., Artists Rep., Capital Rep., San Jose Rep., Center Rep., Capital Stage, The Utah, Orlando and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals, The Arizona Theatre Co., The Marin Theatre Co., Portland Center Stage, The Seattle and Marin Shakespeare Companies as well as work with the Toronto, Windsor, and Oregon Symphony Orchestras.

Wise has worked in collaboration with Ralph Abraham, one of the pioneers of chaos theory, on the development of this work. Ralph Abraham, founder of the Visual Math Institute, is a professor of mathematics at U.C. Santa Cruz and the author of nine books.

"It behooves us to study the principal bifurcations of the past for guidance, such as the scientific revolutions of the 17th century," said Dr. Abraham. "The mathematical theory of catastrophes is critical, as those who understand the math of social transformation are much less likely to give up in the face of social disintegration and more likely to optimistically participate in the construction of the future."

The Kepler Project is produced by Motion Institute, a Bay Area nonprofit theater production company that offers audiences a singular view of current issues, presented in ways that are contemporary, innovative and embedded in the narratives of their own lives.

Every Thursday from 6:00 - 10:00 pm
Proceed to the planetarium entrance upon arrival to get show passes (seats are limited).

Every Thursday night, music, creatures and cocktails come together for NightLife at the Academy. Explore exhibits and aquarium displays while sipping creative cocktails, and let exotic animals from around the world transport you to the tropics, Tibet, and dozens of other remote destinations. Special planetarium shows will take you even farther afield. Each week features a live band or DJ and a unique theme. NightLife is for ages 21 and over; a valid ID is required for entry. Admission is $12 per person ($10 Academy members). California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco. (415) 379-8000.