The Franklin Institute

The Giant Heart exhibit will be closed for upgrades Monday, November 4 — Friday, November 15

Tesla's Dream: An Interview

Meet David Henry Wrigley, Co-Creator, Director, and Actor portraying Nikola Tesla
Historical photo Nikola Tesla and photo of actor in a play about Tesla

Last year, for the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, you wrote, produced, and starred in The William Penn Story, an original musical about Philadelphia’s founding father.  Audiences loved it and the show received several glowing reviews.  This year you have once again co-created and are presenting a brand new play about an innovative, pioneering, humanitarian, Nikola Tesla. That seems like a lot of work! How do you do it?

It has been a combination of passion, support from my team, and many years of experience.  I love LIVE THEATER.  I have been creating theater and performing on stage since the sixth grade.  In college, I studied Theater and Biology and the fact that I get to create science-themed theater as a profession is one of the greatest blessings I could ever have asked for.  I love researching and sharing the findings of my investigations in creative and dynamic ways.  I love performing!  So, while it takes a lot of energy to create and stage a new production in just 10 months, it has been a labor of love.

I have also had some excellent support from my employers here at The Franklin Institute.  Several department heads, Gerri Trooskin, Abby Bysshe, Paul Taylor and others have seen much of my work including several short plays created and performed for The Franklin Institute’s Science After Hours and Philadelphia Science Festival events, plus a couple full-length musicals that I have co-written and presented with my tiny theater company, Brotherly Love Theater Company.  From these experiences, combined with my duties as a Traveling Science Show presenter, I have gained the trust of my organization and am considered a talented and driven theatrical entertainer and educator.  Gerri, whom leads Museum Programs, granted us a generous budget and has allowed our creativity to shine.  By “us”, I mean myself and Paul Taylor, with whom I have co-created and performed in dozens of productions here at The Franklin Institute.  Paul has been creating Museum Theater for decades and is an integral part in much of the creative work coming from The Franklin Institute.  His title of “Creative Coach” is well deserved as his personality, style, and experience influence many aspects of the museum’s offerings, from exhibits to live shows. By the way, Paul co-wrote and co-stars in Tesla’s Dream as Nikola Tesla’s father and as George Westinghouse! 

Give me the top 3 reasons people should see Tesla’s Dream.

 - Tesla is an incredible and extremely important figure in our modern lives.Cell phones, X-rays, remote control, radio, the AC (Alternating Current) that powers your home, community, and workplace, and many more technologies that we take for granted, would not be possible without this person’s contributions.

 - The fusion of live theater, five actors performing, dancing, acting, presenting demonstrations and spectacle, AND 60 minutes of specially made cinema make for one helluva unique theater-going experience.  HUGE SHOUT OUT to Matt Lorenz, the lead IMAX projectionist at The Franklin Institute and film editor and sound designer for Tesla’s Dream whom has compiled our raw film footage and found imagery and edited it together to create a truly mesmerizing score of film and sound.   Matt’s contribution illuminates every single second of Nikola Tesla’s imagination; think “Being John Malcovich” meets “Waking Life” meets “Live Science Shows at The Franklin Institute”.  A giant movie screen, above the stage, shows all the thoughts happening inside of Nikola Tesla’s mind as he moves in and out of different moments that are happening, have happened, and will happen in his life.  As an audience member, you will be privy to the thoughts of our electrifying main character.  You may not know where to put your attention, the screen or the stage.  Hopefully you will find a way to observe both, simultaneously.  Tesla’s Dream is a very special show, different from any I have seen or been a part of.  I hope you will like it!

 - Our cast is incredible!  Throughout the play, characters from Tesla’s life appear in two-dimensional form, on the big movie screen positioned above the action happening on the stage, and in three-dimensional form, played by four additional actors, one embodying ELECTRICITY itself and the others showing up as Tesla’s MOTHER and FATHER, GEORGE WESTINGHOUSE, and, of course, THOMAS EDISON.  This live production was created specifically for the 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival and will never be presented in this format again!  Our cast and crew were chosen specifically for this project.  The filmed elements of this show feature our specific cast members.  After our final bow, we will probably never be together in this way again.

In the fall a movie titled, “War of the Currents” is coming out.  I have not seen the film, but I can assure you the film touches on many of the same themes that our production focuses upon.  Their film however will never give you the three-dimensional/four-dimensional experience that our production will provide.  This is live theater!  Their movie will be seen by millions (which I am glad about, as Tesla’s story deserves to be told).  Our production, on the other hand, only has room for 240 people a night.  I hope you are one of them!

Well, I certainly plan to be there.  When are the shows again?  Where can one buy tickets?

Performances are on:

Wednesday, September 11, 7:30 pm
Thursday, September 12, 7:30 pm
Friday, September 13, 7:30 pm
Saturday, September 14, 3 pm
Sunday, September 15, 1 pm

Buy your tickets today!

September 6, 2019, 11:37am

Richard Saunders

Richard Saunders is a pen name used by Benjamin Franklin. He is the author of Poor Richard’s Almanac.

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