MACH 33 Festival

Festival Name: MACH 33 Festival

Link to site:

Host: California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the Pasadena Playhouse

Festival Type: Festival of New Science-Driven Plays

Festival Dates: Early Spring

Overview of Festival: “Each year, MACH 33—which engages students and staff at Caltech and Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in the selection, development, and performance of new science-driven plays—culminates in staged readings and fully produced shows in the spring. This year, two of the readings will be performed on the Pasadena Playhouse main stage, and one reading will be held in Caltech’s Ramo Auditorium. Each reading will include a post-show discussion with the playwright.” 


“Escape velocity” is the speed needed to “break free” from the gravitational attraction of a massive body. On the surface of Earth, escape velocity is about 11.2 kilometers per second, or approximately 33 times the speed of sound: MACH 33. Our name celebrates the innovative, dynamic breakthroughs that scientists and artists achieve.


Sponsors and Partners: Caltech and the Pasadena Playhouse

Festival Team:

Brian Brophy – Artistic Director of MACH 33

Arden Thomas – Associate Artistic Director of MACH 33

Danny Feldman – Producing Artistic Director of the Pasadena Playhouse

First Festival Date: May 4th, 2013

Festival History: The MACH 33 Festival comes from the collaboration between Caltech Theater, who had been producing science plays as part of their regular season, and the Pasadena Playhouse. Since 2013 they have hosted the MACH 33 Festival, and premiered over 20 new science-driven plays. 

2020 Festival Season

Play Performed: Burst

Playwright: Rachel Bublitz

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Sarah Boyd is an extraordinary human being. Not only did she build her company from scratch using nothing but willpower and fortitude, she also sits on the precipice of truly saving this planet. Because on top of being one of the fastest growing tech companies in history, Tactix, with Sarah at its helm, will usher this planet into the post-plastic era. A time where we need not worry or fret over the great destruction being done to our world from this non-biodegradable foe. With her eyes steady on her next round of funding, Sarah must persevere through a late night interview with a particularly tough reporter, a lawsuit aimed at a person from her past, and the waffling of her CTO. It’s a heavy load, and Sarah knows that she is the only one great enough to bear

(Synopsis provided by Rachel Bublitz’s website)

Discipline: Environmental

Play Performed: The Sunrise from the Moon

Playwright: Hannah Manikowski

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: The year is 2096, and Annaliese Gardner, a refugee from the defunct Lunar Colony Montgomery, is returned to Earth and housed in the Georgia Aquarium’s jellyfish room. Mina Espinoza, a researcher from NASA, is assigned to Annie’s case. If she can extract from Annaliese what caused Montgomery’s failure and simultaneously mold her into something resembling a typical American citizen, she is confident she’ll win over the public opinion and reinstate NASA’s prestige. But the intentionally difficult, pointedly bizarre, and deeply traumatized Annaliese is wary. Though reluctant at first, the two develop a bond that might even approach love – and, to save Annie from a life lived as a sideshow attraction, Mina considers abandoning all her plans of space program grandeur and running away with Annie. However, when an anxious teenaged Georgia Aquarium intern discovers the pair’s involvement via the aquarium’s security footage and threatens to out Mina, Mina’s resolve falters. That night, devastated and newly aware that she is being recorded, Annaliese breaks the glass of every tank in the room, killing the jellyfish. While the water drains around her, she calmly recounts the details of the Montgomery collapse.

(Synopsis proved by the MACH 33 website)

Discipline: Psychology

Play Performed: Human (e)

Playwright: Desiree’ York

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Doctoral candidate Molly Royce has one goal in life: complete her thesis to carry on the pioneering work of her father who recently died of Huntington’s disease. Wanting to live a normal life, Molly has kept her promise to her father not to be tested for the genetic disease: until now. Master’s degree candidate Shayna Williams has trained all of her life to become a professional violinist, but a neurological disease which affects her ability to play threatens her dreams of graduation. Viewing each other as only a means to an end, Shayna reluctantly agrees to participate as Molly’s test subject in her research project as a last resort. As the experiment unfolds, Shayna and Molly develop an unlikely friendship that is put to the test when Molly finds out she is pregnant and is confronted with the ultimate decision. She must choose whether to keep her promise to her father or risk passing on the disease that killed him.

(Synopsis proved by the MACH 33 website)

Discipline: Genetics

Previous Season’s Shows: 

2019 Season:

Bones of the Sea by James Armstrong

Sizzle Sizzle Fly by Susan Berfield

The Surest Poison by Kristin Idaszak

2018 Season:

Theory of Nothing by Lolly Ward

Out There Right Here by Anna Nicholas

Lie After Lie After Lie by Stephen Dierkes

2017 Season:

Vavilov’s Gardenby Mark Eckard

Somber Science by Matilde Marcolli

Faustus, PhD by Mark Kozlowski

2016 Season:

The Chisera by Paula Cizmar

Planet Between the Stars by Hillary Bhaskaran

Heart of the Stars with Brian Brophy, Bryan Penprase, Manan Arya, and Utkarsh Mital

2015 Season:

Two Degrees by Tira Palmquist

The Last Flight of the Mercenary by Karen Howes

2014 Season:

They Promised Her the Moon by Laurel Ollstein

Theory of Nothing by Lolly Ward

Capture the Sun by George Morgan

2013 Season:

Tesla: A Radio Play for the Stage by Dan Duling

Out of Orbit by Jennifer Maisel

Sila by Chantal Bilodeau

The Washing of the Water by Marcus Renner 


Entered by: Anna Galanides

Photo/Visual Research with citations:

Photo provided by MACH 33 promotional materials

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