The University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) “To Touch the Moon” stage production is gaining nationwide notice after an article recently published on Space.com. Funded by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium (ISGC), this newly shaped performance that promotes an interest in space, is geared toward youth with autism or other developmental delays. It ties in to this year’s 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 moon landing mission.
Gretta Berghammer, a professor of theater at UNI, explains this production as immersion theater: “Immersion theater actually immerses the audience in the world of the play; the line between audience and actor is blurred as audience members become participating members of the production. They assume a role and become a ‘part’ of the play.”
As she was developing the concept for the play, Berghammer met with the ISGC and was invited to tour NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to conduct research to help with producing the play. Marcy Seavy, who coordinates Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) education at UNI, Mark Parrott of UNI, who is set designer for the play and students from UNI also spent time at the Huntsville facility.
The play ventures into the human journey to the moon in three stages: myths and stories about the moon, work in the NASA labs, and events on the surface of the moon, promoting sensory awareness, social interaction, and nonverbal communication, sparking the curiosity of the STEM fields for ages 9-16.
Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, director of the ISGC and a lecturer in the Iowa State University Department of Aerospace Engineering, and Jay Staker, ISGC associate director, are part of the advisory board for the production. Space historian Andy Chaiken is also on the board.
There will be six performances of “To Touch The Moon” April 19-20 and 26-28, 2019, and they will directly serve 100 youth with autism. They will be held at the Bertha Martin Theatre on the UNI campus. For more information contact Greta Berghammer at firstname.lastname@example.org.