The Matter of Origins

The Matter of Origins combined choreography, media, and conversation. Inspired in part by Liz Lerman's visits to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), it addressed the physics and philosophy of beginnings, and probed into the mind's capacity to discover and comprehend the workings of matter at vast extremes of scale, from the quantum to the cosmic.

Following a stage performance that constituted the work's Act One, the audience moved to nearby venue for Act Two, or "Tea," which served up cake and conversation, prompted by a postmodern floor show of dance and hand-held media. The idea was sparked by stories of a tea house run by Edith Warner near Los Alamos, New Mexico, in the 1930s and 40s; because of her friendship with legendary physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edith was able to keep her tiny establishment open even as other businesses were forced to close in the wake of the secretive Manhattan Project. She served suppers and poured tea for the engineers and physicists who had come to the mesa to split the atom. But what do you say to someone with a huge, explosive secret? What subjects come to mind after a day spent probing the essence of matter and contemplating an unspeakable act? What do you listen for in a room like that?

"This hour-long contemplation of the universe is a work of expansive range, emotional depth and singular beauty." — Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post

Commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland and by Peak Performances at Montclair State University, The Matter of Origins also received significant support from the National Science Foundation to further our work to establish meaningful and replicable evaluation structures for communicating science through excellent art. You can read the research team's "idea book" here.

Here are some edited excerpts of The Matter of Origins (turn up the volume!)