Rocket Girl And The Caltech Theater Department

Earlier today I listened to the August 5th edition of the Brian and Jill Show, a podcast.  What prompted my interest was their interview with George Morgan, author of Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist.  (The interview starts at roughly 40 minutes into the podcast and runs for 10 minutes.  There’s no NSFW content in the interview, but some may object to language in other parts of the podcast.)

George Morgan is Mary’s son, and while I think it can’t help but affect the final work, what reviews I’ve read suggest that the younger Morgan doesn’t let that get in the way.  Based on timeframe and topic, I’d put the book close to the shelf to Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City.

While this would normally just rate a mention in the weekly late night post, some details from the interview deserve special attention.  Morgan’s book was first a play put on at Caltech.  He submitted the play to the school’s theater program, and it was so well-received that not only was it produced, it landed Morgan a position as playwright-in-residence.  He has written another science-influenced play produced at Caltech, Pasadena Babalon, about another rocket scientist, Jack Parsons, and his activities in the occult.

Perusing the list of productions at the Caltech theater department, Morgan’s two plays aren’t the only science-influenced plays in recent years.  This season there is a festival of new science-based plays, and each of Morgan’s plays were performed in the same season as a similarly influenced play (Kapek’s R.U.R. and Brecht’s Life of Galileo).

Additionally, the current director of the program, Brian Brophy, may bring a little bit of history to the program, if only subconsciously.  A working actor, Brophy played Commander Maddox in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  In the episode (“Measure of a Man”) Maddox is a cybernetic researcher who seeks to have Lt. Commander Data reassigned to Starfleet for testing and research (Data is an android).  Maddox does not consider Data to be sentient, and fights Data’s efforts to refuse the reassignment.  High drama and science, for certain.  While being at Caltech is probably enough to look for science and technology plays (the Sloan Foundation science theater program should take a look), it wouldn’t surprise me if his work in this episode influences Brophy’s selection of works (he directs many of the produced plays).

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