Stars and Star Stuff

“We are made of star stuff – the nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies.” 

Astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous words echoed in my head long after my lunch with WordTheatre® founder Cedering Fox. 

“We are all made of star stuff,” Cedering repeated. “We have so much more in common than we do that’s different.”

We were discussing the impetus for her upcoming show WordTheatre’s In the Cosmos: Where We Come From, Where We Are and Where We Are Going, a star-studded mashup of eclectic texts and live music with a cast including 2017 Emmy nominee (This Is Us) and 2016 Emmy winner (American Crime Story) Sterling K. Brown, Glee and Broadway star Darren Criss, Scandal’s Bellamy Young and True Blood’s Chris Bauer. The August 26 event will be WordTheatre’s second show at the Ford and a benefit for their WordTheatre in the Schools (WITS) initiative, which provides programming for Title I middle and high school students all over LA County. 

In the Cosmos cast
In the Cosmos cast

In signature WordTheatre style, the evening will be an explosion of fact, fiction, humor, poetry and music from Copernicus and Galileo to Monty Python and David Bowie. In addition to the stellar cast, there will be an equally impressive lineup of musicians including trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, guitarist Page Hamilton (who toured with David Bowie) and classical pianist Inna Faliks. In addition to favorite tunes ranging from classical to pop, the show will also feature original compositions by frequent Randy Newman collaborator Jonathan Sacks and award-winning composer Starr Parodi, all under the direction of the Hollywood Bowl’s Assistant Conductor Maestro Anthony Parnther

Although Cedering began her career as an actor, she quickly discovered her talent for direction when director Darrell Larson asked her to fill in at the Literary Evenings at the MET series in the early ‘90s. In 2003, she founded WordTheatre in Los Angeles and London to celebrate literature through performances of the best contemporary short stories.

“[The reading format] is such an intimate experience,” Cedering explained. “When an actor really inhabits a story, the molecular atmosphere changes and you remember that we’re all in this together.”

Though she got the idea for the show “in a flash,” the process took six months and involved several public library visits, more than 100 books and lots of intern support. She ended up with over 1,000 pages of research, which she eventually whittled down to a 55 page script. 

While the show is guided by the likes of Carl Sagan and Neil De Grasse Tyson, and celebrates everything from creation myths to astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Mae Jemison, it also has a very personal connection for Cedering. Her mother is the late poet Siv Cedering and selections from her poetry collection Letters to the Astronomers will also be included in the performance. 

“It’s quite beautiful and has always been one of my favorite bodies of her work,” Cedering said.

Her father, David Fox, is a “huge astronomy nerd” who participates in a NASA think tank at Brown University. In fact, Cedering will be accompanying him on a trip just five days before the show to watch the upcoming total solar eclipse, the first to completely cross the US in nearly one hundred years. What an appropriately cosmic beginning to the week.

-    By Amin El Gamal

WordTheatre’s In the Cosmos: Where We Come From, Where We Are and Where We Are Going performs on Saturday, August 26 at 8:00 pm. Tickets and info here.