Director Josh Cragun on Tesla's predictions: "The dude was talking about the iPhone."

Zach Morgan 
Zach Morgan 
Photo by Mathieu Lindquist

Nikola Tesla, the oft-forgotten inventor who died impoverished in 1943, has been getting a bit of attention as of late with posthumous celebrations of his contributions to science, and his eerily correct predictions about 21st century life. For their latest show, Nimbus Theatre takes stories of the inventor's life as a starting point for their new play, Tesla, which opens this weekend.

Zach Morgan 
Zach Morgan 
Photo by Mathieu Lindquist

Director Josh Cragun, a self-proclaimed "technology nerd," has found Tesla fascinating for some time. About a year and a half ago, he was reading a bit more about his life, and thought it felt very theatrical. 

The play takes the narrative arc of a classic heroic tragedy. Creating the work involved a process in which a text team helped early on by gathering research. Cragun then did some writing, and came back with an ensemble of six actors who play multiple parts. "I brought in both dialogue I had written and a great part of this rich historic text, including Grover Cleveland's actual speeches," he says. The ensemble of actors provided feedback about the script throughout the rehearsal process.

Cragun says he wasn't aware of the Oatmeal post on Tesla when he first came up with the idea for the play, but since the company has begun developing piece, Tesla seems to be everywhere. 

What's interesting, Cragun says, is that a lot of the stuff that Tesla said near the end of his life about the future sounded crazy to people. However, his predictions turned out to be not too far from what actually happened. For example, the inventor once said that telephones would one day not just carry voice but text and pictures, and it would fit into your pocket. "The dude was talking about the iPhone," Cragun says. 

Tesla was a man who invented the world we live in. He invented the radio, and the electrical system on which we use to this day. He invented radio control, and fluorescent and neon lighting. And yet died penniless in New York City.

Cragun appreciates Tesla as a great thinker who had a lot of fatal flaws. "He was incredibly brilliant and decades ahead of his time," he says. At the same time, Tesla was proud, and "had a lot of hubris that led to his downfall. [He] didn't understand the world of business. He made a couple of really big mistakes, a big one being trusting JP Morgan." 


Opens Saturday, May 11
Nimbus Theatre
1517 Central Ave. NE., Minneapolis
Through June 9

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The Nimbus Theater

1517 Central Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413


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