Azusa Pacific was the only college in California to host the production, which is currently on its North American tour.

On Saturday, Azusa Pacific hosted the one-man play, “Fire From Heaven: Michael Faraday and the Dawn of the Electrical Age” in Upper Turner Campus Center (UTCC). From the same creators of “Mr. Darwin’s Tree” in 2019, “Fire From Heaven” was written and directed by acclaimed British playwright Murray Watts, featuring Andrew Harrison as the actor.

Similar to “Mr. Darwin’s Tree,” “Fire From Heaven” is a one-act play that tells the story of one of science’s most influential figures: Michael Faraday, a man of great intellect and even greater faith. The son of a blacksmith, “Fire From Heaven” documents Faraday’s life — one of humble beginnings that grew to eventual scientific success and discovery in chemistry and electromagnetism. 

Although scientific discovery was central to Faraday’s life and legacy, the heart of the play was rooted in his deep faith. Throughout the play, as Faraday progresses both in his scientific career and personal life, the audience is given a window into the inner workings of the man’s heart and mind. While a believer in the holy words of the Bible, Faraday also believed in “the Book of Nature,” as revealed to humanity in the natural wonders of the world.

Midway through the story, Faraday mused, “When you look at a world so beautiful, you wonder, what is our place in it?”

Along with the captivating storyline was Harrison’s energetic performance. Each role was played with gusto and accompanied by varying accents, depending on the character portrayed. Despite the minimalistic setting and singular actor, the audience was entertained throughout the 75-minute production, with plenty of laughs going around.

Following the play was a panel discussion between Watts, Elijah Roth, Ph.D., Bradley “Peanut” McCoy, Ph.D., and Aisha Chen, Ph.D. on the play and the relationship between science and faith. 

When asked about how he came up with the idea, Watts explained that unlike Charles Darwin — whom his last play was about — Faraday was a less controversial figure who, instead of losing his faith along the journey of discovery, integrated it within his scientific work.

One way in which Faraday did this was through humility, an aspect that stuck with McCoy. “In science we have the great temptation to think we know more than the average man,” he said. For McCoy, “Fire From Heaven” was a welcome reminder that, despite the vast knowledge he and others have in their field, there is still much left to explore.

Another aspect of Faraday’s humility, as highlighted by Watts, was in his rejection of various honors despite their coveted nature in British society. Seeing how it corrupted his boss, Faraday steered clear of these awards and focused on his faith and his work as a scientist alone. 

Faraday’s childlike wonder of the world around him was another topic of discussion amongst the panel members, who credited his endless curiosity for much of his discovery. As a playwright, however, Watts also stressed the importance of artistry amidst wonder and scientific questioning, giving the example of how his young granddaughter questioned why the sky is blue while simultaneously expressing that fact through art.

“The image of God in us makes us all artists and scientists,” Watts said, encouraging the audience to embrace both their rational and creative abilities.

Chen also admired that, for Faraday, childlike wonder and science went hand-in-hand, and she hopes to take this philosophy into her classes and research through faith integration.

“That sense of wonder leads to more questions,” she said.

Overall, Watts hopes his work resonates with his audience through authentic storytelling and engagement with conflict and emotion. “You can’t make people think … I try to move people so deeply they can’t help thinking,” he said.