Friday, November 17, 2023 at 7:30pm

Building W97, 110
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA 02139


After Gertrude Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights

Renowned poet, novelist and playwright, Gertrude Stein wrote “Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights,” in 1938 in Paris — just as the world around her had begun its acceleration,  headlong, into ever greater chaos, division, and loss. Combining music from Mozart’s last opera “The Magic Flute,” and set in the super-charged re-imagined high-performance  laboratory of MIT inventor Harold (Doc) Edgerton, “Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights” will have performances on the 16, 17, and 18 November 2023 in the theater at W97 — all shows 7:30pm.


Starring Mustafa Al-Obaidi, Stefanie Bauer, Dionne-Marie Daku-Mante, Shangqing Guo, Judy He, Echo Liu, Sophie Liu, Tess Engst-Mansilla, Alayo Oloko, Sangkaeo Pin + Benson Joseph, Dayvion Porter, Lea Potthoff, Ellison Scheuller, Stella Shipps, Kelly Song, Laura Weber, Emi Grady-Willis, Xinyu Xu, Elvin Yang, Jackson Zhang, and Kevin Zimmer


“Lights the Lights”


Doctor Faustus, decides it would be better to  go to Hell than stay here, but Devil says “No you’ve already sold your soul.” Sigh. What’s a Scientist to do?! As the oceans boil, and the winds kick up, the struggles to go-real-fast-and-break-stuff no longer seems like a  good idea. We find ourselves in a blaze  of unrelenting light. Light without night. As the melodies of Mozart ring in our ears, Marguerite Ida and Helena Annabel,  pursued by snakes, burst in to remind us that things can always get worse.


Set Design by Sangkaeo Pin + Benson Joseph; Video by Joshua Higgason with Emi Grady-Willis and Joseph Zhang; Camera by Stella Shipps; Sound by Christian Frederickson with Dayvion Porter; Lighting by Kevin Fulton with Xinyu Xu, Branden Spitzer, and Alayo Oloko;Style and Clothes by Shanise DeSilva, with Vivian ChinodaMaske + Special Effects by Stefanie Bauer, Lea Potthoff, and Laura Weber; Objects by Tess Engst-Mansilla and Collaborators; Director of Production Chris Swetcky; Front of House Yi Tu; Graphic Design by Dan Pecci; Assistant Director Vivian Chinoda; Subtitles by Aaryika, Stage Managed by Maria Papadopoulos;  Choreography by Anna Borou Yu; Directed by Jay Scheib


MIT Music and Theater Arts Presents Lights the Lights, after the play by Gertude Stein, adapted, performed, made by the students of 21M.812 Theater Arts Production


About the sources for the play…

(adapted from the web)

Gertrude Stein (American/Parisienne February 1874 – July 1946)was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania to German-Jewish immigrants. Stein attended Radcliffe College from 1893 to 1897. After leaving Radcliffe, she enrolled at Johns Hopkins University, where she studied medicine for four years, leaving in 1901. Stein did not receive a formal degree from either institution. In 1903, Stein moved to Paris with Alice B. Toklas, a younger friend from San Francisco who would remain her partner and secretary throughout her life. The couple did not return to the United States for over thirty years. During World War I, they volunteered together, driving supplies to hospitals in France. Together with Toklas and her brother, Leo, an art critic and painter, Stein took an apartment on the Left Bank. Their home, 27 rue de Fleurus, soon became a gathering spot for many young artists and writers including Henri Matisse, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, and Guillaume Apollinaire. Stein was a passionate advocate for the “new” in art. Her literary friendships grew to include writers as diverse as William Carlos Williams, Djuna Barnes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway. It was to Hemingway that Stein coined the phrase “the lost generation” to describe the expatriate writers living abroad between the wars. Her first book, Three Lives, was published in 1909. She followed it with Tender Buttons (Claire Marie) in 1914. Tender Buttons clearly showed the profound effect modern painting had on her writing. In these small prose poems, images and phrases come together in often surprising ways—similar in manner to Cubist painting. Her writing, characterized by its use of words for their associations and sounds rather than their meanings, received considerable interest from other artists and writers, but did not find a wide audience. Among Stein’s most influential works are Stanzas in Meditation and Other Poems [1929–1933] (Books for Libraries Press, 1956); The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Harcourt, Brace, 1933), which was a best-seller; How to Write (Plain Edition, 1931); and The Making of Americans (Contact Editions, 1925). Sherwood Anderson, in his introduction to Stein’s Geography and Plays (Four Seas Company, 1922), wrote that her writing “consists in a rebuilding, and entire new recasting of life, in the city of words.” Stein died of cancer at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine on July 27, 1946.


Harold Eugene Edgerton (American, April, 1903–January, 1990)graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE, with a BS in Electrical Engineering. After spending a year working for General Electric as a researcher, he began his post-graduate studies at MIT in Cambridge, MA, in 1926. He earned both his MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering, and went on to accept a position as an engineering professor. While at MIT, Edgerton began experimenting with strobes in an effort to advance their technological utility. He was interested in how strobes could be used to freeze objects in movement when being captured on film with a camera. These experiments led him to begin taking his own photos, and through the use of strobe photographic technology, Edgerton was able to capture split second events, such as the bursting of a balloon or the firing of a gun. Edgerton studied alongside fellow photographer and engineer Gjon Mili, who shared his interest in strobe photography. He retired from his position of institute professor emeritus in 1968, but continued working in the MIT Stroboscope Light Laboratory and teaching the freshman course in stroboscope photography. In 1934, he was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Photographic Society, and in 1973, he won the National Medal of Science. Edgerton passed away in Cambridge, MA, on January 4, 1990.


Johannes Chrystostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (1756–1791) was arguably the most gifted musician in the history of classical music. His inspiration is often described as 'divine', but he worked assiduously, not only to become the great composer he was, but also a conductor, virtuoso pianist, organist and violinist. Mozart's music embraces opera, symphony, concerto, chamber, choral, instrumental and vocal music, revealing an astonishing number of imperishable masterpieces. Mozart was born in Salzburg, in 1756. Mozart's father, Leopold, was an ambitious composer and violinist. Though he was and still is considered a genius, he was also tactless, arrogant and had a scatological sense of humour. Mozart composed his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus when he was only 11. A year later the Emperor Joseph II commissioned him to write La finta semplice. In August 1782 he married Constanze Weber. The Mozarts' marriage seemed to be a happy one. Constanze was easy-going, free-spending and usually pregnant. Only two of their six children survived. Post-marriage, some of Mozart's best started to appear -the Haffner and Linz symphonies and five string quartets, for example. Between 1784 and 1786, he composed nine piano concertos and three of these concurrently with The Marriage of Figaro. The year 1787 saw the premiere of Mozart's second opera, Don Giovanni. Mozart had a great run of successes in his final years - Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the Clarinet Quintet in A, three of his 41 symphonies; Cosí fan Tutte, three piano trios, the Coronation piano concerto, two piano sonatas and three string quartets. His health began to fail and his work rate slowed in 1790. He got better, though, and in 1791 alone composed the most famous The Magic Flute, the Requiem (unfinished), and the Clarinet Concerto. Mozart did not live long enough to complete his Requiem. He died in Vienna, in 1791, before his 36th birthday.


Event Type

Workshops/Fairs, Community Event, Performing Arts

Events By Interest

Academic, Diversity/Inclusion, Arts/Music/Film, General

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Public, MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS)


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