This Saturday, July 20, is the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the surface of the Moon. Strange and distressing as it is for me to think that one of my most vivid early memories is a half-century old, I nonetheless felt a strong urge to do something to celebrate the occasion.
So I decided to write, direct and act in a radio play based on an earlier imagining of a trip to the moon: From the Earth to the Moon, the 1865 novel by pioneering French sci-fi author Jules Verne; I also incorporated parts of his 1870 sequel Round the Moon. Roy Weinberg produced the show, which features a cast of local actors, as well as harp music by local musician David Ice, for Sun Sounds of Arizona. The radio reading service will air the production at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 20, and again at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 24; you can listen at sunsounds.org.
When I was a kid I loved Jules Verne, but it wasn’t until I read him as an adult that I realized how funny he is. In many ways From the Earth to the Moon is a half-amused, half-alarmed French parody of Americans; our bluster, our fascination with guns, and the penchant we have, or once had at least, for diving into reckless, grandiose schemes like going to the Moon.
I was also struck by how prescient much of Verne’s novels were: A century before the Apollo program, he predicted that Americans would shoot an object at the Moon, from Florida, containing three guys, that it would orbit the Moon, and that it would splash down in the Pacific. His space gun is called the Columbiad, and the command module of Apollo 11 was called Columbia. Not bad.