Monday, December 27, 2010

Time travel can be hard!

By Mithra Ballesteros, First Stage Children's Theater

Admit it. You've fantasized about climbing into a DeLorean, setting the flux capacitor to some significant date, and flinging your modern-day self to the past or fast-forwarding to the future.
THE MAGIC BICYCLE Playwright John Olive has contemplated this matter at length and he openly states that time travel is possible but it's hard. He is quite serious. What challenged this experienced writer wasn't the science behind the theory -- the curve of the earth in relationship to the speed at which a person travels through time. He is referring to the difficulty of constructing a tightly-knit plot that moves smoothly back and forth in a time/space continuum of one thousand years without losing its audience.

In Mr. Olive's original play, the main character, Willy, is a time traveler. Willy visits many time periods and sometimes encounters different versions of the same character in different points of time. For this sort of non-linear story to be successful, Mr. Olive had to pay close attention to details of continuity and logic. To aid in this process, Mr. Olive spent some time last summer at First Stage, workshopping his script. Said the playwright, "The workshop was excellent and very effective in finding issues of continuity. We changed a lot of things except the ending, which didn't change one bit. I'm proud of that."

Time travel on stage is tricky for another reason. Theater is a convention that does not allow for large blocks of explanatory copy, so the playwright must convey important technical details through dialogue, action, or visual elements. How does the bike move? Where does it go? First Stage relishes these sorts of challenges and uses them as opportunities to get very creative. For this production, large television monitors mounted on stage will provide the audience with a digital version of the journey into the fourth dimention.

video

As for how Willy travels through time, the answer to that question is answered by Sir Isaac Newton who discovered the relationship between motion and time and by Albert Einstein whose special theory of relativity confirmed the interconnectivity of time and space and proved that time travel is entirely possible.
But why the urge to travel in time? That is the biggest question that Mr. Olive tackles in this story. What happens when we are faced with the opportunity to change our environment, our history, our destiny? John Olive takes all of the heady science and applies it to the story of a girl who yearns for a home and the time-traveling boy who drops into her world. It's a wild ride.

THE MAGIC BICYCLE has its world premiere at the Todd Wehr Theater on Friday, January 14. The production runs through February 5, 2011. Tickets begin at $11.50. Click here for more information.

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