You’re not likely to read about Emilie Du Châtelet in your history or science books, but the highly theatrical, fast, funny, and sexy story of this real woman can be found on the stage at Open Book Theatre in Trenton, Jan. 12-Feb. 3.
She was ahead of her time, furthering the work of recognized male scientists (philosophers, they were called at the time) Newton and Liebniz. She was a lover and muse for Voltaire. Her translation for Newton’s major work Principia Mathematica is still the French translation in use today. Her work on the squaring of velocity in an equation for force was the forerunner to Einstein’s E=mc2. And she’s nearly been forgotten.
“I think, especially in this day and age, it is important to tell stories about the women in history who were influential in their various areas but are overshadowed by their male counterparts,” said director Sarah Hawkins Moan. “Telling these stories empowers women of all ages, but especially those young girls who are just beginning to discover what they like and who they want to be in a world that unfortunately still creates barriers to female success. I think it is incredibly important for us as storytellers and artists to give those girls strong, smart women to look up to and be inspired by. I’m especially excited to bring Emilie’s story to life because she was a brilliant mathematician and scientist in an age where women were not expected to do more than marry well and produce children.”
Open Book Artistic Director Krista Schafer Ewbank is taking on the role of Emilie.
“It’s a joy to get to play someone as passionate as Emilie. She’s passionate about her love and her work, the two great themes of the play. There’s a wonderful line in the play about happiness being having the time and space to wonder, and I’m so happy to have the time and space to discover this amazing woman. I’ve been learning a lot about her as I prepare, and she’s truly inspiring!”
The play is a good fit for Open Book Theatre, which is not only run by a female artistic director, but features a season directed entirely by women: a rarity in the theatre world. The play is written by Lauren Gunderson, currently the most produced playwright in America (besides Shakespeare).
“Emilie tells us that human beings are always human beings.” Gunderson said. “And love and hard work and hope and heartbreak look the same now as they did 300 years ago, that women have always had to prove themselves against harsher critics. That love is never easy. That brilliance is always sexy. That life ends up being about how much you love and trust and come to know yourself. That the largest and deepest of human questions by the most complicated and contradictory of women in history deserves retelling because it tells us about ourselves. Emilie delighted in the reimagining of things. I try and follow her lead.”
The show is directed by Sarah Hawkins Moan and features Krista Schafer Ewbank as Emilie and Jonathan Davidson as Voltaire, and also features Caitlin Morrison, Patrick Loos, Cynthia Szczesny, and Matthew Wallace. Costumes are designed by Cheryl Zemke, with set by Eric Niece, lighting design by Harley Miah, and movement by Geri Connor. The show is stage managed by Jillian Joie Dahl.
Individual tickets are only $20, or $15 for students or seniors, with tickets for the opening night show and gala at $30 each. Tickets can be purchased online at openbooktc.com. More information can be found online or by calling (734) 288-7753.
Open Book Theatre Company is located at 1621 West Road, Trenton, MI 48183. Emilie performance dates and times are Friday, Jan 12, 8 p.m. (opening night, all tickets $30. Includes afterglow), Saturday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 19-20, 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2 p.m., followed by a discussion with the artists, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 26-27, 8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 28, 2 p.m., followed by a discussion with the artists and Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Feb 1-3, 8 p.m.