‘Icarus at the Edge of Time’ Opens the 2012 World Science Festival

Michelle Michalos |
Where: Venues across NYC
When: May 30 – June 3, 2012

On May 30, the 2012 World Science Festival returns to New York City for its fifth anniversary with over 50 programs that meld the scientific with the artistic. Co-founded in 2008 by author and physicist Brian Greene and television journalist Tracy Day, the festival seeks to attract leading scientific minds, renowned artists and influential thinkers to present science in novel ways, attracting a broad audience from music lovers to science geeks.

“The World Science Festival individual programs are for anyone with a curious mind,” says Greene. “It allows everyone – kids and adults, novice and enthusiast – to experience science in a unique and thrilling way.”

With around 300,000 New Yorkers expected to attend, the festival spans four of the five boroughs and includes outdoor programs at Washington Square Park, NYU-Poly Tech’s quad in downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. “Part of the fun of the festival is that it utilizes such a wide variety of spaces that are unique and diverse, just like New Yorkers and New York City,” says Greene.

One of the most unusual and spectacular indoor settings for the festival is the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights. Designed in a neo-classical Cambodian style in 1930, the former movie palace will host the festival’s opening night event,  “Icarus at the Edge of Time,” a multimedia performance piece about a boy who challenges the formidable power of a black hole. Directed by British filmmakers Al + Al with a script adapted by Brian Greene and playwright David Henry Hwang, the piece features an original orchestral score by Philip Glass that will be performed by Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Actor LeVar Burton narrates the story.


“Icarus at the Edge of Time” opens the 2012 World Science Festival on May 30 at United Palace Theater as part of the festival’s kids and families programs.

“We performed the world premiere of Icarus at the World Science Festival in 2010, and it was an unforgettable experience,” says Katy Clark, president and executive director of Orchestra of St. Luke’s. “Arts education has always been an important part of the work we do, and this is a piece of music that illuminates the connections between science and art for audiences of all ages.”

In addition to ticket sales to the general public, “Icarus” expects roughly half of the 3,300-seat United Palace Theater to be filled with local and national STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) educators and their students. Many of these educators participated in a series of  “Icarus” Master Classes at Marymount School and Cooper Union. Led by Greene, these pre-performance sessions were an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to inspire and engage students in science.

“The festival shows that science is so much more than what kids often experience in the classroom — it’s not just facts and figures, but is instead a daring journey of discovery,” says Greene. “The ‘Icarus’ performance, melding music and film with the story of a courageous boy challenging a black hole, and suffering a fate that dramatizes one of Einstein’s greatest insights, captures this spirit.”

As part of the festival’s ‘Icarus’-related educational resources, educators can apply for complimentary tickets to bring their students to the show, and can also access a guide to teaching black holes in the classroom. There are also resources for kids that explain black holes and provide context for the performance.


With its neo-classical Cambodian design, the United Palace Theater stands out from its Washington Heights surroundings. The theater, built in 1930 as a movie palace, hosts the 2012 World Science Festival’s opening event, “Icarus at the Edge of Time.” Video courtesy of The City Concealed, a project of WNET/Thirteen.

Aside from “Icarus,” the 2012 World Science Festival offers a multitude of  kids and family activities geared towards the next generation of young scientists, including “Cool Jobs,” where scientists explain to kids what their jobs entail, and “The Flame Challenge,” a contest that calls on scientists worldwide to give their best explanation of how a flame works, hosted by actor Alan Alda. As part of “Science-on-Site,” kids can team up with researchers to explore the flora and fauna of Brooklyn Bridge Park, culminating in an evening of stargazing alongside the Brooklyn Bridge.

This year’s festival will also host the 2012 Kavli Prizes, the international biennial awards that recognize scientists whose advances have dramatically expanded human understanding in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. Winners of the $1 million prizes will be announced live via satellite from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo on May 31, with on-site opening remarks by John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, followed by ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas and leading researchers exploring the next wave of opportunities in the Kavli prize areas.

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