Reading the Mind of God

Reading the Mind of God

Synopsis:

Two 17th Century astronomers, Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, are thrown together by fate-two men of genius, jockeying for their positions in History. Their tempestuous collaboration will help usher in a new scientific age-if it survives their stormy clash of egos.

Aging Tycho Brahe is the most famous astronomer in the world-wealthy, influential, and above all, the owner of 35 years of precise readings of the stars and planets-a priceless treasure. For years he has been able to out think, out work, and out drink everyone around him-and his ego has grown to match his accomplishments. But Tycho understands that he lacks the ability to interpret his observations and create a planetary theory. No suitable heir is in sight among his assistants or sons.

Young Johannes Kepler is a man of intense vision and conviction-about science, the universe, and God. His mind is rich with theories, but he lacks the data necessary to make more than simple guesses. The violent beginnings of the Counter Reformation force Kepler to seek refuge with Tycho-the man who possesses what Kepler needs to make his own mark on history: planetary data. After a warm welcome, Kepler quickly finds Tycho’s castle a difficult place. Tycho will share only scraps of data, and the entire house is so chaotic with drinking and partying that Kepler can hardly think. Tycho and his men rarely hesitate to humiliate Kepler-mocking his poor vision, tossing him in the fish pond. Kepler’s internal vision of the Heavens, once crystal clear, is now muddled. The arrival of his wife, a woman of constant complaint, only makes matters worse. Finally, Tycho’s constant pressure is too much and Kepler suffers a nervous breakdown.

Kepler recovers his health in his hometown of Graz, but all Lutherans are expelled from the province and he must return to Tycho. For his part, Tycho has sorely missed the young genius and is eager for his return. Tycho’s unwed daughter is pregnant, his son is rebelling, and his health is deteriorating. Kepler returns but insists that conditions must improve. Constant fights with Kepler and Tycho Junior infuriate the elder Tycho-he’s filled with despair at the thought that he cannot transform his numbers into a meaningful theory. Kepler barely manages to stop a raging, drunken Tycho from burning his entire collection of data. The next day, Kepler demands the observations, saying they belong in safer, saner hands. Tycho, livid, collapses. As he dies, Tycho and Kepler are able to reconcile, and Tycho gives the young scientist the precious collection of observations.

Kepler and Tycho’s passionate, often destructive, collaboration laid the foundations of modern physics and astronomy. Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” His giants were Kepler and Tycho.

Read the first act of Reading the Mind of God

What the critics say about Reading the Mind of God:

  • “Reading The Mind Of God is a wonderful script, lively and intelligent” “A major triumph.” Rocky Mountain News
  • “Its message about the ego’s role in scientific discovery is as timeless as the stars, and its humanity is as palpable.” Westword
  • “The thought-provoking, accessible drama, is sparked by humor and allows audiences a glimpse of two intellectual giants who were all too human.” Denver Post
  • “Reading The Mind Of God is a moving drama by Denver playwright Pat Gabridge, whose writing-always good-has progressed to a new level with this work.” Boulder Daily Camera
  • “Reading The Mind Of God, a gem whose brilliance will grab and not let go.” Quest
  • “Fascinating and timely.” Indianapolis Star

Production History

Staged Readings:

  • New Jersey Repertory Theatre, 1999
  • Chameleon Stage, Denver, 1996.
  • Colorado Dramatists, 1994

Productions:

  • Richland Community College, Decatur, IL, March 2001.
  • Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis, July 1997-August 1997
  • CityStage Ensemble, Denver, December 1996-January 1997.
  • Denver Theatre in the Park, July 1997

Awards:

  • Semi-Finalist, Stanley Drama Award, Wagner College, 1999.
  • Winner, Festival of Emerging American Theatre Competition, 1997
  • Nominated, Best New Play 1996-97, Denver Drama Critics Circle

Publication: Selected monologues published by Smith & Kraus in Best Stage Monologues for Men 1997 and Best Stage Monologues for Women, 1997.

Character Breakdown:

(minimum required: 5 men, 3 women)
Johannes Kepler: 29 years old, dark, wiry, often bursting with energy. A tremendous genius, extremely nearsighted.
*Magistrate
Tycho Brahe: 54 years old, a large rotund, balding man. His most distinctive feature is his nose, which is made of silver (he lost the original in a duel in his youth), on which he constantly rubs ointment. His presence extends far beyond himself, and he shifts quickly between good humor and rage.
Jep: Tycho’s fool, rumored to possess second sight.
Tengnagel: 20s/30s, handsome, Tycho’s chief assistant, from a noble family.
Elizabeth: 23 years old, Tycho’s daughter. Romantically involved with Tengnagel.
Junior: Tycho’s eldest son, a strapping young man of 19. More interested in hunting and horses than astronomy.
Christine: 40s, Tycho’s common-law wife. From peasant stock.
Barbara Kepler: 25 years old. Has already lost several children to illness and is now on her third marriage. She’s often short-tempered and melancholy.
*Karl, an inquisitor/nobleman.
*Helen, a Bavarian noble in Graz
*Gretta, a Bavarian noble in Graz
* = role can be doubled.

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