‘Physics for poets’ takes CMC stage

Stewart Oksenhorn

Judging from her short history as a playwright, it’s hard to tell if Kristin Carlson is obsessed with William Blake, the 18th-century English poet and artist, or Catherine Blake, his wife of 40 years. Or neither of the two.Carlson’s latest play, “Physics for Poets,” which has its world premiere tonight at the New Space Theatre on the CMC Spring Valley campus, features appearances by both Blakes. The play centers on Kay (Aimee Dale), a Ph.D. candidate working on a proposal for her dissertation – about Blake. In the last hour of her project, Kay has a moment with her party-boy office mate Brian (John Goss); the combination of Blake and Brian causes Kay to enter into a self-examination that is at the heart of “Physics for Poets.” The Blakes are among a host of ghostly figures from the past – all played by Dale and Goss – who pay a visit.Carlson, however, started writing the play fully expecting William Blake would be the central figure, rather than a brief apparition.”The focus on Blake is much less than I anticipated,” said the 40-year-old Carlson, a Glenwood Springs resident of 10 years. “It’s the driving force; it’s trying to research Blake that brings her to that self-examination. But Blake isn’t the focal point, as I imagined. It’s about these two characters I never dreamed would be there. But in taking on a mystic as her topic, Kay deconstructs her tidy world.”The inspiration for “Physics for Poets,” which CMC Theatre presents as a fully staged workshop production with Lynn Aliya directing, was “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” – Carlson’s previous play, also tangentially about William Blake. The motivation behind that work was the playwright’s fascination with Catherine Blake.”I was really intrigued by Catherine Blake, who was an enigma but got no ink,” said Carlson, whose day job is writing corporate copy for the Dallas-based firm Nouveau. “She must have been amazing. She was illiterate; William taught her to paint, read and write. There are suggestions she might have done a lot of the artwork for him. And he was such an intense person, had this very free idea of marriage – but they stayed together for 40 years, with no hint of infidelity.”So who was this woman who stuck it out, and by all appearances kept him enthralled all those years? There had to be something there. She wasn’t just a scullery maid; she didn’t just cook and clean.”Carlson began writing for the stage some eight years ago with “Practicing Communion,” which had nothing to do with any Blakes. The play is about a crisis in a small-town church. In fact, her résumé is filled with plays that don’t feature either Blake. Her 10-minute piece “The IQ Test” was, she says, an “Orwellian questioning of the No Child Left Behind Act.” Among the plays she’s currently working on are “Americus Most Wanted,” set in Americus, Ga., and the 10-minute piece “The Interview,” both Blake-less.With or without Blakes, Carlson is having a steady ascent in her playwriting career. Her first play has yet to see the outside of her drawer. “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” received a staged reading by CMC Theatre in 2001. Last summer, “The IQ Test” was selected by the Playwrights Showcase of the Western Region and presented at the Arvada Center. “Physics for Poets” is her first play to get a full production.”Physics for Poets” opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. at CMC’s New Space Theatre on the Spring Valley campus. Performances are also set Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m., as well as March 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children, students and seniors. For tickets, call 947-8252.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is