Los Altos resident Dr. Ron Rosenfeld is scheduled to present a reading of his third play, “Helios,” 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.
The retired pediatrics specialist said the play was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s innovation of motion-picture projection in the late 1800s. A photographer, Muybridge was hired by Leland Stanford to answer the popularly debated question of the day – whether all four feet of a trotting horse were off the ground at the same time. He proved that they were by setting up a series of cameras around a racetrack, then putting the images on a rotating cylinder to create one of the earliest movie projectors.
Rosenfeld, who spent 30 years researching human growth hormones, came up with the idea to write the play after attending Rebecca Solnit’s book reading on “River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West” at Stanford University.
“I’m sitting there listening to her excellent reading and then it seemed to me that it would be fun to turn into a play,” he said. “Particularly dealing with … the concept that you can make a video and run it forward and backward. But you can’t take life and make it go backward.”
The reading of “Helios” will feature 10 performers. Rosenfeld also dabbled in animation, which will be projected onto a screen behind the performers at the stage reading.
“It’s a challenging play because it incorporates a lot of (Muybridge’s) photography and videos,” he said.
Although Rosenfeld’s background is in human growth hormones – he’s had more than 660 published research and academic papers – the 16-year Los Altos resident said the transition to writing plays was “surprisingly easy.”
His first play was “Survival of the Fittest” – another science-themed endeavor that he wrote in 2004.
“It was a huge amount of work, though,” Rosenfeld said. “Once I had the germ of the idea of actually taking this conflict between Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace and putting it into a play, it sort of wrote itself.”
He then wrote “Fixation,” based on the life of the German Nobelist Fritz Haber, the inventor of chemical warfare.
None of his plays has become a fully staged production, but Rosenfeld hopes one of them will soon.
“I would love to see (“Helios”) in full production,” he said, “but the question is: If you’re a totally unknown playwright, how do you get people to pay attention?’
Tickets to “Helios” are $15 at the door. The JCC is located at 3921 Fabian Way.
For more information, visit paloaltojcc.org and type “Helios” in the search bar.