FIU Astrophysicist Mixes Astronomy with Theater

Fiorella Terenzi’s Solar System Astronomy class performs “Let’s Get Astrophysical" in previous year's performance. Photo courtesy of Terenzi.

Irina Barneda/Staff Writer

Fiorella Terenzi is an Italian astrophysicist, author, musician, recording artist and professor who is teaching astronomy at FIU… but with a twist.

Terenzi’s Solar System Astronomy class prepares every week for a public theatrical performance called “Let’s Get Astrophysical.”

The production counts as an exam at the end of the semester. Students are graded based on their participation and contributions. They can take on any role they want, whether it be makeup artists, writers, dancers, actors, choreographers, assistants or social media marketers.

The idea to combine traditional lectures with performance art was Terenzi’s.

Fiorella Terenzi and her class perform in previous year’s “Let’s Get Astrophysical.”

“The show was inspired by my personal story and also my desire to unite traditional science education with performance art and creative design,” said Terenzi. “So it was a mix of personal motivation along with my academic preparation by putting together art and science.”

Students are going to learn about astronomy through the production itself.

“Everything we bring into the production can be tied back to astronomy… from the movements of the dances to the costumes, from the lighting to the color choices on set,” said Terenzi.

For example, if a character has on yellow shows it represents the temperature of a yellow star.

Fiorella Terenzi teaches during her Solar System Astronomy class.

“I want students to know that when they take astronomy at FIU, they need to be ready because it is going to be a different take,” said Terenzi. “We are going to dance with the cosmos, create music, art and costumes using the universe because the sky above us is what inspires us and what allows humankind to survive.”

Terrence Nickerson, a senior who plays the evil Professor Volt, did not know what to expect when he joined the class.

“I was expecting to see the sun, not be the sun,” said Nickerson.

Despite the unconventional learning style, students are enjoying the experience.

Nickerson said that the show not only educates the students working in the production and the audience, but allows students to boost their confidence.

“I’m looking forward to being mean as Professor Volt and really just having fun engaging with everyone else, especially the audience,” said Nickerson.

Fiorella Terenzi and her class perform in previous year’s “Let’s Get Astrophysical.”

While the class is fun and lively, Terenzi takes astronomy seriously.

“It is by looking up that we created time: the week, the day, the month,” said Terenzi. “By looking up at the stars, we formed art, architecture and astronomical tempo until we got to music, poetry and literature. I want to incorporate what is really the root of our universe in our everyday life.”

A mini-performance of “Let’s Get Astrophysical” will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 2:30 p.m. in the Graham Center pit. 

National Geographic will be covering the mini-show as part of celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020.

The full show will take place on Apr. 17 at 8 p.m. in the Chemistry & Physics building in room 145. 

Photos courtesy of Fiorella Terenzi

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