The off-Broadway world premiere of “The Winning Side,” a new play by James Wallert, will feature Godfrey L. Simmons Jr., senior lecturer in the Department of Performing and Media Arts, as Major Taggert. The show opens Oct. 8, with a limited run through Oct. 28.
Based on the story of Wernher von Braun, Hitler’s chief rocket engineer and one of the fathers of the U.S. space program, “The Winning Side” explores the hidden history behind the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. The face and voice of space exploration on television during the 1950s and 60s, von Braun was one of the most famous men in the world, yet because of his complicated legacy, many history books have not featured him. “The Winning Side” re-examines him and asks challenging questions about our contemporary views of science, technology, politics and ethics.
“I’m excited to work … on this super-relevant play about what we as a society are willing to sacrifice for ‘progress,’” said Simmons, who also serves as artistic director of Ithaca’s Civic Ensemble. “This play aligns with much of the work I've been doing the last several years with my colleagues at Cornell PMA and Civic Ensemble. It reframes historical events to illuminate issues that affect our society today.”
Wallert said of the American space program, “The moon landing was presented as an awesome feat of American engineering genius and political will. It wasn’t until much later that I began to become aware of just how much moral compromise and human sacrifice was marshaled to propel America toward that ‘one small step,’” he said.
- Linda B. Glaser