Saturday, August 28, 1999

Stage Performance: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

The prestigious journal of science, Nature, has "Book reviews" column, and this column includes a sub-column named "Science in culture" to present reviews on classic books, stage performance, etc. The sub-column in the issue of April 8, 1999, was devoted to the review of the stage performance by Mike Maran Productions based on Feynman's best-selling book, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! The reviewer is John Polkinghorne, who is past President of Queens' College and internationally known as both a theoretical physicist and a theologian.

As for the book, Polkinghorne writes, "I have to say that, though I am a great admirer of Feynman the physicist, I have never cared for it much." However, it is a comfort to Feynman fans that he refers to "a much more complex and interesting character" concealed behind the mask of a fun-loving New York kid, giving as its evidence "the detailed and carefully preserved archive" found by James Gleick, the author of the successful biography of Feynman, Genius.

Much greater delight comes to Feynman fans when Polkinghorne finally says, "Mike Maran is to be congratulated on a lively contribution to ... dramatic performances with some scientific content," and about half the audience under the age of 16 present with the reviewer "will have caught something of the excitement and value of science ..., inspired by someone who was both a very great scientist and an accomplished showman." I very much wish that the same stage performance be also given in our country.

Read essays related to Richard Feynman: "What Do I Care What Mr. Feynman Thinks?"

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