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Friday March 24, 2017

Physics: The Star of a New Off-Broadway Show

Physics: The Star of a New Off-Broadway Show

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Rutgers physics demonstrator takes his popular experiments to the NYC stage

Photo by: Nick Romanenko
David Maiullo performs his 'trash can smoke-ring' experiment at the annual Rutgers Faraday Children Lecture, which he started 20 years ago.

'When you watch a ping pong ball accelerate to several hundred miles per hour in one hundredth of a second and you look at the three metal cans – the first one completely trashed into pieces, the second with a giant hole through the middle of it and the third one crushed but intact – it’s an amazing visual and exciting moment.'
 
– Eric Krebs, the Rutgers alumnus and producer who helped bring 'That Physics Show' to the stage

Imagine a bowling ball hurling straight toward your face. You cringe awaiting impact. But just as the ball slightly touches the point of your nose, it falls back in the opposite direction. What just happened?

Physics happened. Or more specifically, “That Physics Show.”

The upcoming off-Broadway show features Rutgers Physics Support Specialist David Maiullo and is packed with what Maiullo refers to as “stupid human tricks” designed to teach the audience all about physics.

Structured like a revue, Maiullo’s performance aims to teach everything from Newton’s laws through motion, matter and energy to the physical properties of sinking and floating, as well as sound and light waves.

With experiments ranging from a fire extinguisher that rockets a person across the stage to someone being sandwiched between a bed of nails, Maiullo is determined to both shock and educate.

“The best kind of science is really seeing it in action,” Maiullo says. “It captures the imagination and attention and people have a little more appreciation for it.”

Maiullo says the idea for “That Physics Show” started about 15 years ago when Eric Krebs, a Rutgers alumnus and founder of the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, invited Maiullo to perform for his theater appreciation class.

“We brought him in four or five times and we talked about viewing his work as a theater piece as opposed to a science demonstration,” says Krebs, who has been teaching theater for more than 40 years both at Rutgers and Baruch College in New York City.  

Krebs knew right away that Maiullo was a natural showman.

Aside from his 30-year stint at Rutgers as a physics demonstrator, Maiullo has also starred on the Weather Channel’s “Strangest Weather on Earth,” the Science Channel’s “Dark Matters” and National Geographic’s “Humanly Impossible.”

Now, Krebs is ready to help Maiullo bring his talents to the New York stage.

“He [Krebs] has been bugging me about this for 15 years, and I finally had some time,” Maiullo says. “I’m 55 now, young enough to still have the energy to do it.”

In addition to relying on Maiullo’s outgoing personality to draw the audience in, Krebs believes Maiullo knows how to work a crowd. Each demonstration Maiullo performs plays on the dramatic elements of theater, continually evoking surprise and excitement.  

“When you watch a ping pong ball accelerate to several hundred miles per hour in one hundredth of a second and you look at the three metal cans – the first one completely trashed into pieces, the second with a giant hole through the middle of it and the third one crushed but intact – it’s an amazing visual and exciting moment,” Krebs says. “It’s that kind of thing where I think, ‘Wow this is really entertaining.’”

Mauillo is looking forward to Nov. 4, opening night, when he can finally see his work as both an educator and entertainer come together.

“A lot of people might think the show might be some kind of a lark for me, but I take this seriously. In my heart of hearts I believe the more people who love and appreciate basic science and understand the principles we are going after, the better. It’s really important for society.”

“That Physics Show” will run until Jan. 2, 2016 at the Playroom Theater. Show times are Wedneday-Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available here.

For media inquiries, contact Sabrina Del Piano at sabrina.delpiano@rutgers.edu

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