Dear Galileo by Claire Willett, Playwrights West

August 7-29, 2015

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Join us after selected performances for audience engagement talkbacks with artists and community members, including a series of discussions after our $15 “Thrifty Thursday” performances, where the cast and production team will discuss the process of bringing new work to the stage!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 20th: “Page To Stage, Episode #2”
Playwright Claire Willett, Director Stephanie Mulligan, Costume Designer Ashton Grace Hull, Stage Manager Nicole Gladwin, and cast members Kate Mura (Celeste Galilei) and Chris Porter (Galileo Galilei) travel back in time to share their insights about illuminating the Galilei family’s 17th-century life onstage.  Moderator Gemma Whelan, Artistic Director of Corrib Theatre

SUNDAY, AUGUST 23rd (matinee): “The Women of Playwrights West”

Join Playwrights West member playwrights Claire Willett, Karin Magaldi, Ellen Margolis and Andrea Stolowitz for a lively discussion about sexism and gender equality in the American theatre, the rise of women playwrights, their lives and work.  Moderated by Jane Vogel (Founder, Age & Gender Equity In the Arts).  Join us after the panel for a champagne toast and cake from Pastrygirl to celebrate Claire’s birthday!

THURSDAY, AUGUST 27th: “Page To Stage, Episode #3”
Playwright Claire Willett, Director Stephanie Mulligan, Sound Designer Annalise Albright Woods, Lighting DesignerJ.D. Sandifer, and cast members Walter Petryk (Robert Snow) and Agatha Olson (Haley Snow) talk about their artistic adventures in diving into the world of Texas creationists to bring the Snows to life onstage. Moderated by Scott Palmer(Artistic Director, Bag & Baggage Productions).


A little girl with big questions about the universe writes a letter in her diary to a long-dead scientist. So begins a dialogue that bridges faith and science, wonder and doubt, present and past, as three very different women in three different eras grapple with the legacies of their famous fathers.  In a small town in Texas, creationist author and TV pundit Robert Snow is at a loss when ten-year-old Haley’s newfound passion for science begins to pull her from the Biblical teachings of her upbringing.  In Swift Trail Junction, Arizona, home of the Vatican Observatory’s U.S. outpost, pregnant New York sculptor Cassie Willows arrives to find her estranged father, world-renowned astrophysicist Jasper Willows, has gone missing. And in Renaissance Italy, Celeste Galilei lives under house arrest with her elderly father Galileo—the disgraced astronomer imprisoned for defying the Pope and seeking to defy the Inquisition by publishing one last book. As the three stories move towards a point of convergence, each family’s destiny becomes inextricably bound with the others, linked across time by love, loss, faith, the search for identity, and the wonder of the stars.


“A couple of [other recent new play readings] had a science orientation, too, and now I’m thinking that the city may need a ‘science theater’ to stage them all. Dear Galileo should be in its first season.”—Oregon Arts Watch

“It speaks well for Claire Willett’s drama Dear Galileo that its staged reading was presented by Artists Repertory Theatre in one of its large halls and featured a top-flight cast…. Willett’s ambitious writing was worthy of such resources…wears a love of learning on its sleeve…scrupulously shaped.”—The Oregonian

Dear Galileo is a promising new work, smart and sensitive.”—Portland Mercury

“It’s a potent, important idea, and Willett’s smart concept and attractive characters display real potential….scientifically, dramatically, and emotionally intelligent.”—Willamette Week


Claire Willett is a proud member of Playwrights West and a founding artist of the Fertile Ground Festival. She was a finalist for the 2015 Jerome Fellowship at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and was the 2011 Oregon Literary Fellow for Drama. Her other works include: the Scottish folk musical Carter Hall (currently in development with Nashville songwriter Sarah Hart, thanks to a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council); Upon Waking; How the Light Gets In; That Was the River, This Is the Sea (co-written with Gilberto Martin del Campo); the chamber opera The Witch of the Iron Wood (co-written with local composer Evan Lewis); an original adaptation of W.H. Auden’s 1942 poetic oratorio For the Time Being; and The Demons Down Under the Sea, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee,” produced in October 2014 as part of Shaking the Tree’s production of The Masque of the Red Death (a collection of Poe shorts by the writers of Playwrights West).

In a banner year for Ms. Willett, her first novel, The Rewind Files—a time-travel, science fiction adventure about Watergate, will be released in mid-July 2015 by Retrofit Publishing in Los Angeles ( Ms. Willett is also a popular, widely read blogger at: It’s Kind of a Long Story ( Like Dear Galileo, her blog is the voice of a fiercely intelligent, compassionate, and spiritually attuned writer, unafraid to take on big ideas.


Cast: Nathan Dunkin, Kate Mura, Agatha Olson, Walter Petryk, Chris Porter, Gary Powell, and Nena Salazar.

Production Team: Claire Willett (Playwright), Stephanie Mulligan (Director), Sarah Kindler (Scenic & Properties Designer), JD Sandifer (Lighting Designer), Ashton Grace Hull (Costume Designer), Annalise Albright Woods (Sound Designer), Nicole Gladwin (Stage Manager).


In 2011, Dear Galileo was a finalist for the Fox Valley Collider Project, a Chicago-area initiative to support original works of theatre about math and science, and was developed with the support of a 2011 Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, a 2011 Oregon Literary Fellowship from Literary Arts, and a fully funded, month-long artists residency at I-Park Artists’ Colony in East Haddam, CT.

In 2012, the play was produced as a staged reading in the Fertile Ground Festival by Artists Repertory Theatre, directed by Stephanie Mulligan, where the cast included Chris Porter (who will be returning in the role of Galileo).

In March 2013, Dear Galileo received a staged reading at Pasadena Playhouse in California as part of the Hothouse New Play Development Workshop Series, directed by Literary Manager Courtney Harper, with a cast that featured noted actors Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) as Jasper Willows and Lawrence Pressman (Doogie Howser M.D., American Pie, Transparent) as Galileo.

In Summer 2014, Willamette University in Salem—launching its new on-campus company, Theatre 33, with a summer of readings by Portland playwrights—selected Dear Galileo as their inaugural project


Founded in 2009, Playwrights West, a professional theatre company composed of nine Portland playwrights known for the high quality of their work, focuses on presenting top-level productions of its members’ plays and supports the development of original work in Portland. The nine member playwrights are: Karin Magaldi, Ellen Margolis, Aleks Merilo, Steve Patterson, Andrea Stolowitz, Andrew Wardenaar, Claire Willett, Patrick Wohlmut, and Matthew B. Zrebski. Drawing upon a growing national movement of playwrights taking the reins for productions of their work, Playwrights West introduces Portland audiences to compelling, innovative theatrical experiences, while engaging in a dialogue with the Portland theatre community about the rewards of presenting vital new plays by gifted local authors. Playwrights West believes staging new work proves essential to furthering Portland theatre’s continued relevance to its audiences and to the region’s overall culture. New plays provide thrilling, unique evenings at the theatre, while exploring the complex dynamics of the 21st-century human condition. Dear Galileo marks Playwrights West fourth full play production in association with CoHo Productions, a premier supporter of new plays and original work. CLICK HERE to learn more about Playwright’s West

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