Aging and wisdom: 'Einstein, Niels Bohr and Grandmothers' coming to Annapolis Royal

Heather Killen
Published on August 26, 2014

Len Barron, a Colorado-based educator and playwright, is hoping his inner Einstein will inspire ours.

Barron, who shares a striking resemblance to the great man, has brought Albert Einstein to life in a collection of stories for audiences as diverse as plasma physicists and fourth graders. 

A variation of his show, “Einstein, Niels Bohr and Grandmothers,” is coming to Annapolis Royal for two performances on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. Rather than focusing on the science, these stories will celebrate the humanity of two of the greatest geniuses of the 20th century.

“I barely have any interest in science,” said Barron. “My interest from the start has been in the human beings. If you look at the finest people, you know what is possible for human beings.”

Eight local grandmothers have been chosen to share Barron’s favorite stories about Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr.

Ellie Ackerman, Jeannie Allen, Jenny Walton, Christine Sloan, Eileen Kelleher, Dessie Howard, Jerri Costa, and Sherry Tretheway Caldwell will each give voice to an Einstein and Bohr story.

They will talk about how the men shared a passion for education and justice, sailing and long walks. Barron, who has been studying the pair for years, says both men were reared on fairy tales, learning at an early age to believe impossible things.

Their imaginations fueled new possibilities for perceiving the physical world around them.  The big ideas each man proposed about the universe were actually supported by the small, everyday wisdom that most of us carry in our hearts.

Barron added that often we limit ourselves by not taking our own thoughts seriously. The wisdom of children is one theme running throughout the stories, as children naturally understand the importance of playfulness, awe and imagination; the key ingredients fueling genius, according to Barron.

 “A truly fertile life like Einstein’s is grounded in fairness, beauty and playfulness,” according to Barron.  “Einstein and Bohr, the two giants of 20th century physics, were governed by a deep rooted faith in our intuitive intelligence, and they had a grand sense of play.”

Each of the stories celebrates the wisdom of the heart, rather than theories of relativity or physics. Barron said he wanted to convey the playful sense of wonder, curiosity and humanity that served as the real inspiration in the physicists’ lives.

Barron said he decided to include grandmothers in his show after someone suggested he do an ensemble piece. Grandmothers were a natural choice because, as an educator, he values the importance of intergenerational sharing.

“It used to be that the elders taught the young and passed on traditions.  We need a new story,” says Barron.  “Thomas Berry wrote in ‘The Dream of the Earth’, “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in-between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.”

Right now our stories tell us that genius is outside of us, and that growing older leads towards pain and loneliness. We need to tell a different story, one that focuses on the wisdom we have in our hearts and the pleasures of growing older.

“Everything has an energy field, we are always sensing energy fields,” he said. “I look at everything as a dance. I’ve become an expert at watching the dance and feeling the energy fields people create around them.”

Gregory Heming and Christine Sloan, the show’s producers say they are delighted and excited to introduce the show in Annapolis Royal. Heming says he met Barron many years ago at a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado.

“There was something magical about this presence,” he said. “I noticed him there and immediately picked up my coffee and went over and asked to join him. I ended up spending an hour with him.Len brings the magic wherever he goes.”

Heming says he thinks that the grandmothers are a natural choice for voicing the wisdom and humanity of these two great physicists. The show presents a different view of the nature of greatness and where it comes from.

Grandmothers are the natural wisdom holders and are able to share things that parents can’t. He added that unfortunately elders in our culture are not valued as they once were and have become increasingly marginalized.

Sloan says when she heard that Barron had developed a show with grandmothers, she was excited to be part of it.

“Empathy is part of human nature, energy is contagious,” she said. “We feel what others are feeling, that’s why we celebrate and grieve together. If you create a positive feeling, it influences the people around you and something delightful happens.”

‘Einstein, Niels Bohr and Grandmothers,’ is coming to Kings Theatre in Annapolis Royal f on Sept. 27 and Sept. 28. For tickets and information, visit

For more information on Len Barron and his Einstein shows, visit

Did you know?

Albert Einstein's name has become synonymous with genius. Born in Germany in 1879, his work sowed the seeds that would later transform the understanding of the universe.

In 1911, his work on relativity made him world famous when he concluded that the trajectory of light arriving on Earth from a star would be bent by the gravity of the sun.

His conclusions ripped up the ideas of Newtonian mechanics, which had stood since the 17th century. In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Einstein died in 1955.

Niels Bohr was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and humanitarian. Born in 1885, in Copenhagen, Bohr won the 1922 Nobel Prize in physics for his ideas and years later, after working on the Manhattan Project in the United States, called for responsible and peaceful applications of atomic energy across the world.

Another physicist, by the name of Albert Einstein, didn’t see eye to eye with all of Bohr's assertions, and their talks became renowned in scientific communities. After the end of the war, Bohr returned to Europe and continued to call for peaceful applications of atomic energy. He died in 1962 in Copenhagen.