What’s the secret to living a full life?
The answer lies in Albert Einstein’s writings, says Len Barron (Soc’67) who has spent much of the last four decades teaching and producing theater pieces largely based on Einstein and more recently on his peer, Niels Bohr.
The longtime Boulder playwright, who bears a resemblance to Einstein, has presented Einstein and Bohr’s perspective on education more than 200 times for audiences across the country, ranging from IBM employees and staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to middle and elementary school students.
“Len cares deeply about education, advocating, proposing and where possible, applying his nontraditional principles to the education of young people,” says JoAn Segal (PhDComm&Thtr’78), a longtime friend who has worked with him on a number of shows.
But his performances don’t focus on theories of relativity or physics. They focus on the sense of wonder, curiosity and humanity that permeated the physicists’ lives. A truly fertile life like Einstein’s is grounded in fairness, beauty and playfulness, Len says.
Len’s fascination with Einstein began at CU-Boulder which he began attending at age 30. During a geology course, his professor described a study he did in Zion National Park and then shared one of Einstein’s thoughts stating, “Many times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer lives are built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead and how earnestly I must work in order to give as much as I have received and continue to receive.”
The class fell silent, and the professor told the students to take a walk and think about Einstein’s words. From teaching at Prescott College to producing a one-woman play to raise awareness of heart disease in women, Len never stopped pondering Einstein’s statement. In 1989 he wrote the one-man show Walking Lightly . . . A Portrait of Einstein as a fundraiser for The Parenting Place, a Boulder resource center for parents of infants to 5-year-olds. The piece captured Einstein’s creativity and playfulness.
At 79, Len is focused on elevating the importance of elders, a concept he feels has disappeared in a society obsessed with youth and where elders often live apart from their families. Last fall he cast eight grandmothers to share the lives of Einstein and Bohr in a Boulder performance calledEinstein, Niels Bohr and Grandmothers . . . A Fairy Tale.
“Ultimately, if we don’t find ways to engage the young and old in all kinds of things from parenting to education, it will be a profound loss,” he says. “And there’s no conversation about that. Up until yesterday, it was the elders teaching and passing on traditions. We need a new story.”