In 1977, Carl Sagan led a project to summarize what it means to be human and to send that information into space for the potential discovery by intelligent extraterrestrial life—easier said than done! Voyage to Voyager is a play about a play—“playception”—about the real life struggles encountered by Sagan and colleagues in the development of the Voyager Golden Record, which can be seen this week in an unlikely theater near you: the Gottlieb Planetarium in Union Station.
The concept of this show is simple: to portray the process by which the famous Golden Record came to be; the said process, however, is more complicated than I ever imagined it to have been. Comical, educational, and provocative, this production asks many questions as to what the human experience truly entails and how diverse we all are from one another. The cast was lively and realistic while delivering the inflections and reactions of actors dealing with an energetic yet aloof on-stage director. Portraying Sagan, Coleman Crenshaw was the standout performer, phenomenal as the astronomical icon, and even slightly eerie in his spot-on resemblance.
Presenting a show in a planetarium comes with its own special set of opportunities and challenges, including the fact that the performers’ voices project differently depending on where they are while speaking and where the individual listener is seated. While it was fascinating to note this acoustic phenomenon, it never hindered the performers or flow but remains an interesting tidbit for anyone planning endeavors in a theater meant for a different type of star. The screen was used for projected images from the Golden Record as well as some original animation sequences by Billy Blob. These large cartoons depicted goofy situations in which hydrogen-based life-forms discover the Voyager spacecraft and attempt to decode the images and sounds on the record—silly but possibly realistic in the future, give or take a few billion years or so.
Filled with laughs and scientific details, Voyage to Voyager gives a fresh perspective on the historic task set forth by Sagan and reminds us of the hope that fuels our individual dreams to take us where no one has gone before.
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