Zacarías Mixes Past and Present in World Premiere, Legacy of Light, at Arena Stage

News   Zacarías Mixes Past and Present in World Premiere, Legacy of Light, at Arena Stage
Arena Stage's world-premiere production of Karen Zacarías' Legacy of Light, a comedy split between the 18th and 21st centuries and featuring Voltaire's lover and a modern scientist, opens May 14 after previews from May 8 in the Crystal City area of Arlington, VA.
Stephen Schnetzer, Carla Harting and Lise Bruneau
Stephen Schnetzer, Carla Harting and Lise Bruneau Photo by Scott Suchman

Directed by Arena artistic director Molly Smith, the production will run through June 14. The cast features Lise Bruneau (Shakespeare Theatre's recent Ion) as Émilie du Châtelet and Carla Harting (last at Arena in A Delicate Balance) as modern-day Dr. Olivia Hasting Brown. The company includes Stephen Schnetzer, Michael Russotto, Lindsey Kyler and David Covington.

In a statement director Smith said, "This new comedy exhibits the witty elegance of Karen's writing: she is a gifted and fierce playwright. Legacy of Light is about enlightenment, the twin passions of motherhood and science, and the power of love and the power of learning. Through two readings, a workshop at Georgetown University and many conversations with DC-area scientists and astronomers, this play has grown into a work that is readily accessible yet scientifically accurate."


Zacarías, founding artistic director of the Young Playwrights' Theater and winner of the 2000 Helen Hayes Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play (The Sins of Sor Juana), added, "Although we do not know our distant relatives, we are still living, feeling and doing many of the same things they did 300 years ago. There is a sense of serendipity that infuses this play, an affirmation that everything changes but nothing is truly lost."

"Eras intertwine in this new work about the synchronicities of desire and discovery," according to Arena notes. "Enter the world of 18th century France and meet physicist Émilie du Châtelet, lover of famous French philosopher Voltaire. When Émilie, at age 42, becomes unexpectedly pregnant and fears she may die in childbirth, she turns all attention to publishing her life's scientific discoveries. Jump forward to the present to meet brilliant astrophysicist Olivia and her husband, Peter, who want a child but cannot conceive. They find what could be hope in the free-spirited young surrogate Millie. Follow Émilie and Olivia as they struggle to balance the seemingly opposite pulls of intellectual and maternal fulfillment." The creative team includes set designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, costume designer Linda Cho, lighting designer Michael Gilliam, sound designer/composer André J. Pluess, production dramaturg Jocelyn Clarke and stage manager Susan R. White.

Arena tickets are available by visiting or by calling (202) 488-3300.


Coincidentally, another play about Émilie du Châtelet had its world premiere at South Coast Rep in California: Lauren Gunderson's Emilie – La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life at the Petit Théâtre at Cirey Tonight. It opened April 24 after previews from April 19.


While its headquarters in DC are being renovated in a massive construction process, Arena is presented in other spaces in and around the nation's capital — including Crystal City, VA.

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