‘The Home Planet’ brings the universe to Robinson Theatre

Earth from space

The same awe, hope and inspiration that swept the nation after the iconic “Blue Marble” photo released in 1972 comes alive in Robinson Theater at next week’s debut of “The Home Planet.”

The play interweaves various stories to paint a multicultural picture about human connection to the earth, the impacts of climate change and the powers of storytelling. The opening show at the Robinson Theatre is at 7:30 p.m. May 24, with the final performance June 8.

Theresa May, the play’s director and associate professor of theater arts at the University of Oregon, said projected images and voice recordings of astronauts from NASA archives will help bring the worlds of space and home on stage as well as highlight the deep connection between humans and the planet that was fostered by space exploration.

May has been inspired to make a production about space since she first read Kevin Kelly’s international bestselling book “The Home Planet” 20 years ago. The book assembles accounts from astronauts as well as 150 photos from space to paint a never-before-seen narrative of the Earth and its many connected inhabitants.

“Those photographs changed how we understand ourselves, and that’s the power of art,” May said. “The play celebrates that – it’s really our stories and our art that have the power to change our perspective.”

Three lead actors of The Home Planet

Throughout the production, audience members will follow several interwoven storylines, including a group of young astronauts in training, a mother and traveling astronaut’s relationship with her family, and a story of climate activism through the lens of a child.

“The play will be a magical exploration of our relationship with the planet,” May said. “Our relationship with the planet as human beings is not just scientific, it’s informed by the stories that we learn and the stories that we tell ourselves.”

During the development process, students researched the Apollo missions and responded to writing prompts that led them to research their own history. The stories were then shared, discussed and acted out in a story sharing circle. As a result, many parts of the play are actually written by students – a process May calls “story-weaving.”

“Theater is, at its heart, a collaborative art form, and so this play really demonstrates that and the students are great collaborators all the way through,” May said. “This play is really the theater arts department gift to the larger community as well as to the university.”

“The Home Planet” comes to the Miller Theater Complex on May 24, 25 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. as well as June 1, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees will be at 11 a.m. May 29 and at 2 p.m. June 2. Content is suitable for fourth grade and up. The Sunday, June 2, matinee will have American Sign Language interpreters who will be translating the performance. The 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 29, matinee does not require tickets and seats are first come, first served.

The show is free to UO students who bring their student ID. Doors open one hour before the show and students can get their tickets then.

“I think it’s vital for this university to support the arts and the humanities,’ May said, “and if we don’t, it’s at our own peril because when we forget the stories that our elders told or the stories that we lived through, we forget who we are.”

To learn more about “The Home Planet” on stage, visit the UO theater program website.

—By Bryan Dorn, University Communications