Fifty years ago, millions of people around the globe watched from their televisions as astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon—a landmark achievement of human ambition that gave way to those immortal words: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of that historic moon landing, Gretta Berghammer, professor of theatre, developed “To Touch the Moon,” a first-of-its-kind immersive theatre production for youth on the autism spectrum.
“What’s different about immersion theatre is that the lines between actor and audience get blurred,” said Berghammer. “So you’re not just passively watching and occasionally getting up and doing something. You become a character from the moment you enter the theatre.”
The production, which debuted this spring, consisted of three phases: creation, exploration and lunar contact. In the creation phase, audience members traced mankind’s fascination with the moon back to its earliest stages, becoming part of a tribe of indigenous people.
The exploration phase took place five months prior to the launch of Apollo 11, and audience members were tasked with solving real-life problems that threatened to derail the mission. In the lunar contact phase, the production concluded on the surface of the moon, where the audience members were able to leave a footprint of their own.
For Berghammer, what most resonated with her was the question of why it was so important at the time to put a man on the moon, from a human perspective.
“I think that is what this piece is going to try to embrace,” she said of the production. “Why was it important for us to be there, to see it firsthand? To try to capture the sense of awe and wonder of seeing something no one else has seen before.”