• Cyndi Williams

AP Remembers Dr. Steven Weinberg

This summer, the world lost Nobel Prize-winning scientist, American physicist Dr. Steven Weinberg.

Austin Playhouse lost our generous science consultant, longtime subscriber, and friend. Co-Producing Artistic Director Don Toner remembers that Dr. Weinberg took great pride in being the resident Nobel Laureate of Austin Playhouse. “We always called on him to help with any plays involving science. He was practically a member of the staff!” Don asked Dr. Weinberg to consult on our first production of Copenhagen, in 2002.

David Stahl, Babs George, and Ev Lunning, Jr. in Copenhagen.

Longtime Austin Playhouse Acting Company Member David Stahl played German physicist Werner Heisenberg. David recalls after the first readthrough, Dr. Weinberg turned to him and said, “David, you are playing Heisenberg too nice; that man was not nice – at all.” Dr. Weinberg paused, and David was terrified. He was about to be critiqued by one of the most brilliant men on the planet. Dr. Weinberg burst into laughter, acknowledging that David was playing Heisenberg as written by Michael Frayn in Copenhagen. “Fascinating play! However… Heisenberg was NOT nice.” There’s a famous experiment called the Slit Light Experiment, which reveals the beautiful and poetic information that light does a thing that was once thought to be impossible: it exists both as a particle and as a wave. Working on my ghostly future fiction play Roaring, I found an online thread using the slit light experiment in an effort to scientifically explain the phenomena of doppelgangers. So I started writing a monologue in which a bright young scientist, in a lecture, ties the experiment in to what she believes was a goodbye visit from her mother’s spirit, the night her mother died. I understood the emotion, but honestly, I didn’t have a clear grasp on the science. So I got to submit my vague pseudoscience monologue to the Nobel Laureate of Physics, Dr. Steven Weinberg. At 10:30am, I emailed the monologue to him. At 5:45pm, he sent back a super kind, succinct, written-for-a-layman email with three “small easily corrected errors.” But my favorite thing was to call him back, in my role as Box Office Lady, to confirm his reservation.

He had a beautiful, warm phone voice. He always acted amazed that I remembered where he and Louise wanted to sit: front row, just off center. He won a Nobel Prize; the least I could do was get him his favorite seats! Dr. Weinberg came back to consult on Copenhagen for our revival of the show in 2019. Don says that when we do it a third time, we will dedicate it to Dr. Weinberg.

Dr. Steven Weinberg

To the world at large, he was a Nobel Laureate, a brilliant scientist, a great teacher. To Austin Playhouse, he was our Nobel Laureate, our longtime patron, and honored occupant of the first row. Our deepest condolences to Louise and Elizabeth. Thank you for everything, Steve Weinberg.

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