Nikola Tesla and the San Francisco Old Mint comprise an odd parallel. The inventor, a golden boy of the Gilded Age, pioneered technology in electricity and electromagnetism, yet he ended his life in poverty and obscurity. The “Granite Lady,” meanwhile, also thrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and also lost a fortune — it once housed much of the nation’s gold supply. Now it hosts a theater troupe. Mugwumpin, a site-specific ensemble theater company, brings inventor and structure together in Future Motive Power, investigating the scientist in a space that suits him: an eerie industrial basement surrounded by pigeons. Rather than presenting a direct biography, Mugwumpin is more interested in making Tesla’s ideas physical, or as director Susannah Martin puts it, “translating into movement their impact on our lives.” One movement exploration, according to Chris White, who plays Tesla, is “the experience of a molecule of mercury inside a fluorescent light bulb,” while an-other is the thought-process of invention itself.
Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 6. Continues through Jan. 29, 2012