Andrew Dawson’s Handmade Space Program

Twenty years ago, performer/director Andrew Dawson, who calls his type of art "physical theater," accepted a challenge. Could he create a one-man show using only a table as a stage? With such a small set, he realized he'd need a big subject. "And I couldn't think of anything bigger than going to the moon," he says.

The result was "Space Panorama," his one-man, 30-minute recreation of the Apollo program, which he staged for the first time at a festival in northern England in 1989. Since then he has performed it around the world, including, most recently, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Apollo 16 astronaut John Young saw the show in London, and was so tickled that he invited Dawson to perform it at an astronaut reunion in Houston in 2001—"the most nervous I've ever been," he says. Over the years he has varied the tone. The show started out serious and reverent, became more humorous, and now has settled somewhere in between. But always, Dawson delights his audience by telling a big story using only his hands, whether to represent the frenzy of a rocket liftoff or the moon hanging in the sky overhead.

Here's an excerpt from "Space Panorama," courtesy of the artist. The music is from Shostakovich's 10th Symphony.

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