HWS Theatre concludes the 2017-2018 Frame/Works series on Friday, April 13, with a talk by Professor of Physics Donald Spector who will present, “What ‘Waiting for Godot’ Can Teach Us about Multiple Universes.” The program will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in Williams 201.
Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot stands as one of the iconic theatrical works of the 20th century. As Spector will illustrate, Waiting for Godot offers a natural arena for understanding the nature of multiple universes and what it might mean to live in a reality that is but one universe of many. Spector’s talk is free and open to the public. Frame/Works attendees are encouraged to see Waiting for Godot that evening. Tickets will be available at the Gearan Center Box Office, Monday through Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.
As a theatrical work, Waiting for Godot makes tangible what is at stake in an apparently abstract scientific debate. In the first half of the talk, Spector will explain how it is that physicists have been led to conjecture the existence of multiple universes, and why something that sounds like science fiction might be scientific fact. This will involve introducing some of the ideas of quantum mechanics, that observations of the physical world can be understood to create reality as much as to measure it, and why this might mean there are multiple universes.
In the second half, Spector will offer attendees some ideas to think about as they watch the HWS production of Waiting for Godot. Beckett’s play directly addresses questions not just of whether we all share the same version of reality, but whether there might actually be different versions of reality and a multiplicity of universes. It addresses everything from what would it feel like to live among many universes to what happens when we try to internalize that cognitive dissonance.
Spector is a theoretical physicist and interdisciplinary scholar whose published scholarship has addressed particle physics, string theory, mathematics, computer graphics, music and theatre. Trained at Harvard (A.B., A.M., and Ph.D.), he has been a professor at HWS since 1989. His scientific work has been recognized by the National Science Foundation, NATO, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) and Research Corporation. Spector sits on the boards of the Anacapa Society and the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies. You can find him and his rule of thumb for supernovas in Randall Munroe’s best-seller What If?, and his course “Physics through Star Trek” has made it into Cosmo Girl! magazine and the Dallas Morning News. Spector has presented numerous public lectures, most notably on weapons of mass distruction and on the intersection of science and science fiction. He has served as a consultant to two productions of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen (Headless Sullivan; On the Verge) and a production of Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s Crazy Locomotive (Hangar Wedge), and has had the opportunity to perform several times, including as Patrick in John Mighton’s Half-Life and, most recently, as Kepler in Susan Gerofksy’s Kepler: A Renaissance Folk Play.
Frame/Works is a program designed to draw connections between scholarly examination and artistic practice. Scholars or artists are invited to present their research on a play, playwright, historical moment, genre or style in a pre-show lecture prior to a performance. Following the performance, audience members are invited to participate in a post-show talkback with members of the cast and creative team. Taken together, the pre-show lecture and the post-show talkback, “frame” a “work” of theatrical art. Following the April 13 performance of Waiting for Godot, audience members are invited to stay for a post-show talk-back with members of the cast and production team.