Excerpt from “Dear Galileo”

PROLOGUE: “Dark Matter”

Lights up on a stage divided into three worlds.  A vast empty wall spans the width of the space, on which various projections appear over the course of the play.  Downstage right is a rustic kitchen table cluttered with books, papers, science equipment and the remnants of dinner.  Downstage left is a young girl’s bedroom.  Upstage center, elevated slightly, is a mahogany podium.  Downstage center is a messy office with a desk, bookshelves, and a telescope which points out at the audience.

The words “PROLOGUE: Dark Matter” appear on the wall across the constellation Cassiopeia.  A single spotlight illuminates JASPER delivering a lecture at the podium.

JASPER

In the universe – just like in music, or architecture, or relationships – the absence, the space between, is just as important as the observable, tangible things. (Lights up on HALEY, lying on her bed and writing in a journal)

HALEY

(Writing) Dear Galileo.  (She stops and taps her pen idly, thinking of what to say next)

JASPER

We can’t understand the known universe without talking about dark matter.  It would be a mistake to look out into the sky and marvel at the stars, and think that what we can see is all that’s out there.  The math tells us otherwise.  When you run the calculations regarding the size of the universe in relation to its age, the numbers don’t add up.  (As he speaks, the lights come slowly up on GALILEO and CELESTE in the kitchen.  He is reading at the kitchen table, while she cleans up the remnants of dinner around him.)  We have solid evidence for its age, and we can estimate its minimum mass by counting the visible bodies.  And red shift, which I’ll get to in a few minutes, tells us how far away the furthest objects are that we can see.  But when you plug the numbers into a mathematical model, you run into this problem – the universe is a lot bigger than it ought to be.  The empty space around the stars is throwing off the calculations – maybe it’s not so empty.  Maybe there’s something else out there.  (CELESTE moves to take GALILEO’s coffee mug, but he stops her)

GALILEO

Leave that.  I’m not done.

CELESTE

It’s cold.

GALILEO

I don’t care.  (She sighs and leaves it, taking the other dishes over to the sink to wash them.) 

JASPER

So we arrive at dark matter.  Entirely speculative, maddeningly elusive, completely intangible, but incredibly important.  A force we can’t detect or understand with the meager God-given senses available to us, a force that might or might not exist, but if it does, it could be the thing that’s keeping the whole universe from ripping apart.  (Lights up on CASSIE and GABRIEL.  He sits at the desk surrounded by a stack of files; he looks exhausted, like he hasn’t slept in days.  CASSIE, who is extremely pregnant, sits downstage of him, on the ground.  They don’t see each other.)  The way to get the numbers to add up is to assume the total mass of the universe is much larger, that some other thing out there – dark matter, we call it – is slowing the expansion of the universe and keeping it smaller than it would otherwise be.  But if this substance exists, it’s like nothing else we’ve ever seen.  There’s never enough of it in one place to have any gravitational effect on another body.  It has no charge.  It doesn’t travel at a high velocity or interact with other matter.  It’s holding the reins to the entire universe but we don’t know one thing about it. (Lights up on ROBERT, knocking on HALEY’s bedroom door)

ROBERT

Haley, I need to talk to you.

HALEY

Just a second!  (She stashes the notebook under her pillow)

JASPER

It’s all math – it’s the space between that allows the necessary equation to add up.  But the math gives us no clues as to whether it exists, or what it might actually be. It’s like God.  Either you believe in it or you don’t.  If you do believe in it, it answers the question.  If you don’t, you believe there’s another answer out there.  But nobody knows.  And nobody has any proof.  (CASSIE’s cell phone rings, and she pulls it out and answers it)

CASSIE

Cassie Willows.  (Pause)  What the – who is this?  (Lights out on everyone but JASPER)

JASPER

It’s unsettling, dark matter.  We don’t want to believe there’s a substance out there we can’t see or comprehend, moving us around.  Like God is playing dice with our lives.  But of course He is, all the time.   (Blackout on JASPER.)

JASPER

It’s unsettling, dark matter.  We don’t want to believe there’s a substance out there we can’t see or comprehend, moving us around.  Like God is playing dice with our lives.  But of course He is, all the time.   (Blackout.)

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