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Taking Out Grandpa

A fast forward journey into Time
A play by Andrea Brunello
With Roberto Abbiati and Andrea Brunello
Directed by Leonardo Capuano
Supervision on philosophical matters Enrico Piergiacomi
Scenes by Roberto Abbiati
Costumes by Patrizia Caggiati
Lights by Roberto Abbiati

In collaboration with The Physical Science Communication Laboratory of the Physics Department of the University of Trento (Italy) and the Fondazione Bruno Kessler.
Where does passing time go? This is the question that Albert Einstein asked himself when he attempted to find a symmetry between space and time. Physicists literally do not know where Time goes! And where it comes from! What is time made of? Has it had a beginning? Will it have an end? Can we travel through time? What paradoxes are we likely to find? What is the Arrow of Time?

Taking out Grandpa deals with these questions but in a very human, emotional way. An old man in his deathbed invokes his grandfather: “where does passing time go, Grandpa?”. But his grandfather is long gone... only his spirit survives, he is a ghost, a dream, a vision.

Science meets Waiting for Godot meets Saint Augustine meets Einstein... to the rhythm of Radiohead!

Target Audience and Language:

The play is for an audience 15 years old and up and is available in Italian.

Writer’s notes:

Where does passing time go? This is the question from which Roberto Abbiati and I have started our journey. Because the time that is available to us and its unceasing flow is what all of us share. The end of time is our greatest fear.

This show has been a real voyage of discovery for us. To begin with, we had to try to find common ground between our two different artistic languages: that of clownerie, so wonderfully expressed by Roberto, and that of the spoken word, which has been my staple for so many years. But Taking Out Grandpa is primarily a journey into the world of science that constantly tries to make sense of the concept of “time” and with every step forward there is the negation of everything that was (the universal time of Newton, the relative time of Einstein up to the time that does not exist... of Quantum Mechanics). The show is also a journey into our own humanity, our existence that seems to have serious trouble dealing with the idea that time passes and that one day it may cease to be.
In researching the scientific materials of this show, I had to come to terms with how confusing and large the subject is and with the fact that, to date, there remain vast open issues. Books, conferences and a myriad of articles have been written on Time, but really still so much (everything?) remains to be discovered. For this reason the show is structured as a huge, unceasing question: “Where does the time go?”. Every response we try to give opens new and more complex ones. There is no definitive answer.
In constructing the dramaturgy of this show, we wanted to start from the very tender and touching relationship between two generations: a nephew and grandfather. But the nephew is older than his grandfather and is about to die. Grandpa is a time traveler, a ghost. But in any case he is a spirit that - in theory - should be able to explain to his nephew the secrets of Time. But he does not know how to do it! Just like contemporary scientists, the more he enters the theoretical meanders of science, and the more he gets lost into them, he gets confused, he remains misplaced. And so, while his grandson, after all, can find his own inner peace, the grandfather does not seem able to do it.

Saint Augustin wrote: “What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to one that asks me, I do not know. Yet I say with confidence that I know that if nothing passed away, there would be no past time; and if nothing were still coming, there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all, there would be no present time. But, then, how is it that there are the two times, past and future, when even the past is now no longer and the future is now not yet? But if the present were always present, and did not pass into past time, it obviously would not be time but eternity. If, then, time present -- if it is to be time -- comes into existence only because it passes into time past, how can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being is that it will cease to be? Thus, we cannot truly say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?”

Almost sixteen hundred years later it seems that nothing has really changed. In this play we come to the conclusion that, in the end, it is not the end of Time that scares us, but how we have used the Time we were given. (Andrea Brunello)

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