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Found in Space
AMERICAN THEATRE MAGAZINE

September 1, 2007

When the Columbia Shuttle disaster occurred in February 2003, the media focused largely on the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the tragedy. With headlines concerning the U.S.’s impending invasion of Iraq soon overshadowing coverage of the failed space mission, the press paid little attention to the fate of the three crewmembers of a concurrent NASA exercise, Expedition 6, who found themselves stranded in space for six months between November 2002 and May 2003 as a result of Columbia’s flameout.

In his new docu-drama Expedition 6, creator-director Bill Pullman uses the rescue of the three astronauts from the International Space Station as a basis from which to explore the challenges of scientific exploration, NASA spin, media saturation and events surrounding the Colombia shuttle crash and the Iraq war. The work grew out of Pullman’s desire to make sense of world events. “After Columbia, I was unable to express myself,” says Pullman, who is best known for his roles in movies like Independence Day and Lost Highway and on Broadway in Edward Albee’s The Goat, or who is Sylvia? “I was interested in the contrast between what was happening in space and issues on the ground. I wanted to find a way to go beyond the melodrama of the situation and explore the deeper anxieties of what it means to be human.”

Inspired by film docudramas like United 93, Expedition 6 fuses an assortment of found texts including NASA space logs and Osama Bin Laden’s Speech to the American People, together with low-flying trapeze, live music, and aerial choreography. San Francisco’s Magic Theatre is presenting the first full-length version of the production, which Pullman has gradually pieced together through workshops in Denver, New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. “Creating this play is like working with a space crew,” says Pullman of his eight-strong cast. “We work so closely together that we instinctively know what’s working and what isn’t.”

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