To Touch the Moon

Theatre production brings lunar landing to life

Blending the beauty of the arts with the experimentation of the sciences, UNI theatre professor Gretta Berghammer created a first-of-its-kind production celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. UNI hosted six performances of “To Touch the Moon” in the Strayer-Wood Theatre throughout April.

Consistent with Berghammer’s work, “To Touch the Moon” was tailored for youth with autism and other developmental delays. But unlike her past productions, and unlike anything in the world of theatre, the piece catapulted elementary-aged youth on the autism spectrum into a completely immersive theatre experience. Rather than acting as bystanders, the audience became an active part of the play, shaping the story alongside UNI theatre students.

Together, the group trained for the Apollo 11 mission in NASA labs, collected surface samples of moon rocks, and reenacted the events from the historic moon landing. Stage design, led by faculty member Mark Parrott, incorporated lessons from a tour of NASA facilities Berghammer, Parrott and UNI students undertook as part of their research. This visionary setting allowed more than 100 youth and 50 UNI students to take one small step — and one giant leap — into the world of “To Touch the Moon.”

Donors preview the To Touch the Moon set

“Gretta’s ability to create productions which help children, with and without developmental delays, to learn and grow inspires me to be a dedicated supporter.”

Judy Finkelstein

“Touch the Moon” was made possible through the generosity of individual donors, the Guernsey Charitable Foundation, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the Iowa Space Grant Consortium and NASA.