Meet the 5th-grade teacher who now plays Einstein for a living
Solo artist Jack Fry's Einstein show brings the famous physicist’s life to the stage.
Albert Einstein, whose scientific breakthroughs like the theory of relativity made him the most famous physicist who ever lived, has been the focus of books, movies and last year’s National Geographic miniseries “Genius.” Since 2014, he’s also been the subject of the one-man show “Einstein!” created by and starring Jack Fry, who is currently performing it at the Under St. Mark’s Theater in New York, through Jan. 16.
Focusing on Einstein’s life between the ages of 35 and 42, “It’s a fascinating story about a young scientist in 1914 war torn Berlin, trying to prove his general theory of relativity while going through this Herculean struggle with his personal and professional life,” Fry told From The Grapevine. “We also focus on Albert's mercurial relationship he had with his eldest son, Hans. As a solo theater piece, we are able to externally express the internal turmoil Albert was going through in a way that film cannot.”
Admittedly, Fry didn’t know much about Einstein before he started researching him for this project in 2011. “I knew who he was of course, but to me he was just sort of a hollow icon, one I saw pictures of everywhere. I had heard of E=mc2, but other than that he was just a face on a T-shirt. I became deeply interested in him when I started to study what his thoughts and feelings were about metaphysics. I was surprised to learn how hard of a worker and well disciplined he was. People think he just scribbled brilliant formulas from his La-Z-Boy recliner, but it took him 15 years to prove and perfect general relativity," Fry explained.
“I think what fascinates me about him was how he broke the mold of his time, his ideas went up against the scientific establishment of his day, the incredible turmoil he went through personally and professionally at a time when the world was at war and he was an outspoken pacifist in Germany during World War I. He dangerously stood alone against popular ideas in a totalitarian state. Meanwhile, he ushered in our modern technological age,” Fry said. “But I also fell in love with him personally as I was researching the piece. I've learned that it takes a lifetime to properly study someone's life no matter who they are. I'm still studying and learning about him.”
That becomes clear in the Q&A sessions he typically conducts after performances of the show. “Every once in a while, I'll get a student of science who will ask me a question about string theory,” Fry quipped. “I'll have remind them that I'm an actor interpreting a role.”
Fry, who won accolades for his previous one-man show “They Call Me Mister Fry,” about his experiences teaching fifth grade in South Central Los Angeles, has performed “Einstein!” more than 100 times around the United States and Canada. He hopes to take his show to Israel in the future, where Einstein's archives are kept at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has matinee shows booked April 7 and 21 in Santa Monica, California, and more spring and summer bookings are in the works. Meanwhile, he revealed to us that he’s writing a sequel to the show that will cover Einstein’s life in America.
Noting that theatergoers laugh and are often moved to tears by the show, Fry finds that audiences “relate their own personal struggles with Einstein's, thus giving them a better perspective on their own lives. They will learn about an icon they think they know, but don't.”
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:
Related Topics: Albert Einstein