'Farnsworth Invention' Recounts Origins of TV The television has become a basic part of American life — but where did it come from? Director Des McAnuff and actors Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria talk about a new Broadway play that tells television's tale, starting with Philo T. Farnsworth, a boy genius from a small Idaho town.

'Farnsworth Invention' Recounts Origins of TV

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18024436/18024419" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


For the rest of the hour: the television. Yes, we're on the radio talking about the television again. But it's really an interesting subject because this time, we're going to talk about the invention of television. And if you ask people who invented many great technological achievements, sometimes there's really no easy answer. Perhaps, one person had an idea combined it with an idea from another person, and then a third person comes along.

You know, there were 40 patents on the light bulb before Thomas Edison got around to it anyhow. And so it often bears no relation to the question of who got the fame or the money for the invention, or the history of the invention is often confusing. It's not such an easy subject. And such it is as with the debate about who invented television, first demonstrated in a makeshift lab 80 years ago last fall.

And a new play on Broadway, "The Farnsworth Invention," tries to turn some of that conflict and confusion into drama. It's a play about the invention of television and the battle over the new technology written by Aaron Sorkin. You know him from "A Few Good Men" and the television's "The West Wing."

Joining me now to talk about the play are some of the principals. Des McAnuff, two-time Tony Award winner, director of the play. He's also co-artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.


Mr. DES McANUFF (Director, "The Farnsworth Invention"; Co-artistic Director, Stratford Shakespeare Festival): Thank you.

FLATOW: Jimmi Simpson, who plays the role of inventor Philo Farnsworth in the play. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Mr. JIMMI SIMPSON (Actor): Thanks for having me.

FLATOW: And Hank Azaria, the actor in the role of RCA media mogul David Sarnoff. Does Hank Azaria need any introduction? He's last seen on Broadway in "Spamalot," nominated for Tony, also know him from his movie and TV roles and the voices in "The Simpsons."


Mr. HANK AZARIA (Actor): Thank you very much. Nice to be here. And Des won't say it, so I'll say it for him. It's pronounced McAnuff.

Mr. McANUFF: Oh.

FLATOW: McAnuff, oh.

Mr. McANUFF: Oh, thank you.

FLATOW: Well, listeners to my program know I butcher names, so you're officially now.

Mr. McANUFF: It actually sounds right to me no matter how you say it. I've heard it so many different ways.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Well, thank you. Let's talk about the play. It didn't start out being a play, did it? It started out as a film script or a film idea, right?

Mr. McANUFF: That's right. Yeah.

FLATOW: And what happened?

Mr. McANUFF: I think Aaron had an epiphany, and I believe it had occurred as these things sometimes do in the middle of the night. And I think he realized that he needed the device of having the two principles tell each other stories, and he recognized that that was really appropriate for the stage - more appropriate for the stage, obviously, than film. And so he managed to get the rights back and, you know, turned it into, you know, basically abandoned the screenplay and started over.

FLATOW: And in fact, at the beginning of the play, you're out there on the stage, addressing the audience as sort of a narrator, right?

Mr. AZARIA: Yes, for…

FLATOW: Tell me what's going to happen.

Mr. AZARIA: For a large portion of play, both Jimmi and I trade off narrating each other's stories.

FLATOW: And how does that work, Jimmi, for you?

Mr. SIMPSON: It works great. I love it, I love it.


Mr. SIMPSON: It's - I actually kind of described it the other day as kind of like a Christmas carol thing where, you know, where Scrooge gets to, you know, as an actor, you get to watch the scene that's happening and you know what happens at the end. Your character knows how - what the outcome is but you get to watch it and live it as the character and see these other parts of your life unfolding in front of you, so…

FLATOW: But - and you have to learn about his character because you're talking about Hank Azaria's character…

Mr. SIMPSON: Right.

FLATOW: …you know, and he's going to be talking about your character.

Mr. SIMPSON: Right. And what I'm seeing is, I'm seeing the things that led to my end. I'm seeing the process that he went through to get where he needed to go which influenced where I needed to go. And so it's basically I'm seeing how your life turned out and exactly how your life turned out, not the end but all the steps that built up to it and who is responsible, things like that.

FLATOW: Hank, you describe yourself as a confirmed TV junkie.

Mr. AZARIA: It's true.

FLATOW: Did that help in preparing for this role?

Mr. AZARIA: Not particularly, no, if anything, it hurt. It hurt my concentration powers immensely.

Mr. SIMPSON: Rock of love doesn't exactly…

Mr. AZARIA: Exactly. I was expecting a commercial every 12 minutes, it got very annoying in rehearsals. No, it's just only that I had a passion for the subject and I am not like you. I had no idea about the story or whatever.

FLATOW: And so how did you prepare? How did you prepare to know who he was? Sarnoff was?

Mr. AZARIA: You know, I read the script and then - and did what it said. And then, I know I met with Aaron Sorkin for a couple of hours in L.A. and he said in that meeting, you know, everything that you're going to need to know to perform this role, I'm going to tell you at this lunch, but we're going to inundate you with research materials, anyway. And that's pretty much exactly what happened. He gave a very, very concise, incredible, interesting dissertation on the history of the thing, and a very actable one from my character's point of view about how my guy felt he was right. And which just pretty much mostly - I mean, I checked up on…

FLATOW: Well, David Sarnoff thought he was right all the time, just…

Mr. AZARIA: Absolutely.


Mr. AZARIA: But why so - why a more objective person might also agree that he could be right.

FLATOW: And that's the trick, getting the people who knew about the history, David Sarnoff and the audience, to see that side of the picture inside of the picture.

Mr. AZARIA: Exactly. I think that's what Aaron - and so Aaron said he got particularly fascinated with it as he started writing it and researching it.

FLATOW: I would imagine. We're talking about the play "The Farnsworth Invention" with the cast and also the director on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow.

Des, how much did you have to do in shaping the way this play is presented?

Mr. McANUFF: You know, I think the play was fairly far along when I first started working on it with Aaron. We did do a full-blown workshop in La Jolla, California. I have an association with La Jolla Playhouse out there and that was very, very helpful. And in fact, I got it on its feet quite quickly and I'm sort of ahead of Aaron's ability to do rewrites. So I think most of the work that we've done on the play, I would describe as surgical. There haven't been organ transplants. They've been - it's been sort of minor surgery. But I think that those changes have been extremely important. It's a very complex matrix of a story, and so it's, really, the devil is in the details. And so…

FLATOW: And you don't shy away from the details in this play. You have this monologue of describing how a TV camera works - electrons and photons and things like that that…

Mr. AZARIA: That's actually, I think, Jimmi's monologue.

FLATOW: Is it?

Mr. SIMPSON: We're both talking with…

Mr. AZARIA: We both - yeah, I think Jimmi ends up spending more time in the actual mechanics. But yeah, we both get quite technical.

Mr. SIMPSON: But this is, I think the extraordinary thing about this play is that it brings emotion to science and discovery and it also brings emotion to business…

Mr. AZARIA: Yeah.

Mr. SIMPSON: …and to commerce and to the corporate boardroom. It's very unexpected, people have a very strong emotional response to this story.

FLATOW: I think people see how many business decisions are involved in technology, you know, and how that really drives a lot of technologies.

We have actually a clip from the play. This is a scene between Jimmi and Hank between Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff, and having an argument about not having enough light to make this device work. Let's hear it what it sounds like.

(Soundbite of play "The Farnsworth Invention")

Mr. SIMPSON: (As Philo Farnsworth) You sent them to my lab.

Mr. AZARIA: (As David Sarnoff) It wasn't like it was a secure area.

Mr. SIMPSON: (As Philo Farnsworth) Scientists aren't supposed to operate in secret you share as much information as you can.

Mr. AZARIA: (As David Sarnoff) You were eager to show it to me.

Mr. SIMPSON: (As Philo Farnsworth) Well, I had a light problem.

Mr. AZARIA: (As David Sarnoff) No, you had a huge light problem. If you hadn't, it would have been done by now. If you hadn't, you would'vd be on television. If you hadn't, somebody, somewhere, anybody, anywhere, anyone other than me would have heard of you.

FLATOW: Well, that was - Jimmi, some exchange there.

Mr. SIMPSON: Yeah.

FLATOW: You got the short end of that one.

Mr. SIMPSON: A little bit, a little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Tell us who Philo Farnsworth was in your mind.

Mr. SIMPSON: You know, he was a genius who conceived of some things that most other people weren't even - they couldn't even possibly imagine. He conceived them and he made a lot of stuff work at a time when electricity was new when electrons had been discovered, what, 30 years before. And so he comes up with a lot of stuff as a 14-year-old and he was really, really passionate about it. He saw the world unlike a lot of people.

I mean, he saw it - in my opinion, he saw it as kind of like that "Matrix", you know, like that shot in "Matrix" where the color falls away and it's all just electrons bouncing all over and that, you know, to be able to see the world that way before anyone else was kind of blows my mind. And he was so passionate about it that he just kind of committed his life to all kinds of stuff that kind of shaped science, you know, the electron microscope, you know…

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. SIMPSON: …all kinds of things, not just television.

FLATOW: We have to take a break. We're talking with Des McAnuff, Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria of "Farnsworth Invention." Terrific play, I suggest, you know, have a look at it. There are some flaws in it that we'll talk about in a little bit. So stay with us. We'll be right back. 1-800-989-8255. Also in "Second Life," you can go over and talk to an avatar wearing a SCIENCE FRIDAY T-shirt and ask a question. So stay with us, we'll be right back after the short break.

I'm Ira Flatow. This is TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow.

We're here talking about the "The Farnsworth Invention" on Broadway now with Des McAnuff, the play's director; Jimmi Simpson, who plays the role of inventor Philo Farnsworth, Hank Azaria, who plays the role of mogul David Sarnoff. There's used to be an old joke that the definition of an intellectual, somebody who could listen to the "William Tell Overture" and not think of "The Lone Ranger." I think the definition of a real playgoer is someone who can go see Hank Azaria and not think of Moe the bartender.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Every once in a while…

Mr. AZARIA: Lord knows I can't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Every once in a while, I'm sitting there, thinking, oh, it's Moe. You know why? Because your voice is so distinctive. That's a compliment. I'm saying that as a compliment to you. But…

Mr. McANUFF: Well, we were disappointed because he rarely made an appearance, Moe, in rehearsal and we were all kind of looking forward to that and finally, we managed to…

Mr. SIMPSON: I was hoping for Professor Frank personally.

FLATOW: That's right.

Mr. AZARIA: It will be all be interesting choices for David Sarnoff.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Oh, maybe Dave and Moe have something in common that we really don't realize yet. And if we think about it, we will.

Des, let's talk about the fact a play like this, a science technology-related play about an obscure, to most people, inventor. People may know David Sarnoff. No one under probably 40 remembers David Sarnoff. How it was able to get produced on Broadway? Is it because Aaron Sorkin's name was attached to it?

Mr. McANUFF: You know, first of all, it's had an interesting kind of development. At one point, we were going to do it at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and he actually used the play for the Philo Commission there. I would have, you know, jump through hoops to do this play. Once I'd read it if it had the name John Fudd on it.

FLATOW: Really.

Mr. McANUFF: Now, obviously, any time you put to - when you enter the halls of commerce, you want to, you know, you're in a different world in terms of the theater. And obviously, you want to find whatever kind of competitive advantage you can, and Aaron's name has certainly helped, and helps us, you know, market the show. But it has no impact on the quality of - his name itself doesn't help the quality of the writing and I think the three of us are all united. We happen to think this is a really brilliant and innovative, you know, piece of work and so I'm glad it was written by Aaron Sorkin - I happen to think he's a brilliant guy, but I would have done the play at any rate.

FLATOW: Yeah. There is some criticism about a key scene in the play where - you see a lot of it on the Internet where everything is critical these days, taking Aaron to task for changing the history, a key part of the history in the play and that's the fight over the patent, the actual patent for television and the court case that is shown in the play as Farnsworth actually losing the case when he actually won it in real life.

Mr. McANUFF: Well, I'd love to address that.

FLATOW: Go. The floor is open.

Mr. McANUFF: You know, Aaron wrote this play to a large extent because after he researched it, including, by the way, exhaustive research. He spent a lot of time with Pam Farnsworth who is, of course, married for many, many years to Philo and so he started to realize that there were two camps and that they tended to discount each other. There were the Sarnoff fans and supporters and the Farnsworth fans and supporters. And what he decided to do, which I think is ingenious, is he created two - he allowed them to become two unreliable narrators. They have more invested in the story than anyone else. And they…

FLATOW: That's an interesting point. What are…

Mr. McANUFF: …they fully admit…


Mr. McANUFF: …in the play, they fully admit to the fact that they have a bias, that they're not always getting the story straight. And in fact, following that scene, Hank's character literally says I may have gotten that wrong. He may have won the first case and then lost…

Mr. AZARIA: Yeah. Let me jump in here, you know. To me, this play is 100 percent truthful and about 80 percent factual, as one of our cast members is fond of saying. If you think about that moment, think about the truth of the situation, which is undeniable, which is - Farnsworth is generally not remembered as the inventor of television nor did he receive the awards he deserved. Now, what I say, what I, as Sarnoff say, right after that is: I may be wrong. He may have won that first one and lost on appeal or lost and then won and lost. I don't know. It went for a long time. The suits and countersuits and appeals didn't matter. All I needed to do is run down the clock on the 17 years on his patent, which is what he did. He played, you know, he ran down the clock on the poor guy's claim. And I think in the end in 1939, Philo Farnsworth's company ended up awarded the patent and a million dollars.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. AZARIA: Please. A million dollars compared to with what television is worth which Farnsworth didn't keep for himself, couldn't keep for himself and which didn't sustain him very long or his company very long. I'd say the man was pretty well defeated…


Mr. AZARIA: …as far television went.

Mr. McANUFF: And you know it's not really what the play's about. The fact is that they do take each other to task and what's really extraordinary about the play is that the part of it that happens in real time. These guys are in the theater as characters with us and they go through an evolution. This is what's really emotional about the play. You know, they actually, in a sense, discover each other before our eyes and, you know, it truly is an extraordinary achievement. It's not a documentary.


Mr. McANUFF: And God - thank God, it's not a documentary.

FLATOW: And there's that great scene where you have Farnsworth's meeting with Sarnoff and you go through this whole meeting, and at the end you say, this never happened.

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah.

FLATOW: This is totally fictitious.

Mr. AZARIA: Yes. Well, that speaks to how - you know, and Aaron - the way Aaron sees this, is that this is what Sarnoff, towards the end of his life or maybe even after his life, felt how he had mishandled the situation. This is very much what he deeply, on a soul level, wished he would have done, which is treated Farnsworth more like a human being. And certainly, what history would agree that he should have done.

FLATOW: Jimmi, what do you take away as the theme of this, when you think about what's the overriding theme - that no one wins, everybody wins, or you can look at history your own way or?

Mr. SIMPSON: Yeah, I think maybe the latter. I mean, because it's true that history's generally written by the men with the most money or what have you.

FLATOW: And that's how television ended up.

Mr. SIMPSON: Yeah, yeah. Sure.

FLATOW: The history of TV ended up as being written by the victors.

Mr. SIMPSON: Sure. But it's also, I mean, you know, they brought Pam out for an Emmy - one of the Emmy's a few years ago. And it was as if there's - I think it was an NBC broadcast or something. It was as if, I mean, Sarnoff died in '71, I believe, as so did Philo. So, yeah, maybe he didn't bring him out but there was a gesture and I think that that's what the play is saying. Yeah, nobody's perfect. But there's these two guys who are very passionate about their own thing, trying to make their way. Sometimes, it doesn't work, sometimes it does - that's life, but it's also beautiful and it's crushing and funny. So, you know, I think he kind of gets all that in there.

Mr. McANUFF: You know, there are deeper truths and that's what the theater is actually about, you know. One of the most famous plays in the history of dramatic literature is, you know, Schiller's "Mary Stewart" and it involves at it's key moment a scene between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots that never actually happened. They never met.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. McANUFF: I think what's great about that scene you describe where, really, Sarnoff imagines a scene with Philo is, I think the deepest material in the show, that, in terms of the argument and the dialectic that's created, that those dynamics are contained in that very scene.

FLATOW: It also gives the characters an opportunity to make social statements that they never would have made. I mean, I think there was a line, if I remember, where someone says, that Farnsworth may have said to you or - we gave you the technology and look what you did with it? In terms of programming, the kind of junk there was on television.

Mr. AZARIA: Essentially, yeah.


Mr. AZARIA: Well, you know, an interesting thing about David Sarnoff is, you know, what he envisioned television being was pretty much NPR and PBS, that's what he thought the whole thing was going to be. That's what he wanted it to be and he fought very, very, very, very, very hard, and won for a long time to keep advertisers out of certainly informational programming and all programming - eventually lost that battle. And also, you know, all the money he made for the company, he didn't keep for himself.


Mr. AZARIA: He really truly wanted to deliver this boon to mankind. He got a little egomaniacal about being known as the father of it, but you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Every, you know, success - I guess in this case - has many fathers but only one who says he is.

Let's go to Neal(ph) in San Francisco.

Hi, Neal.

NEAL (Caller): Hi. Yeah. Here's a little known fact about that whole story that probably the playwright doesn't even know. There was - it spills - it was in a warehouse right at the foot of a 200-foot cliff on Green Street in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill. And there's a big rockslide in early 1927 and boulders came crashing down and damaged the building and could have destroyed the whole laboratory they - it didn't quite but it could have. And so I think that was kind of interesting sideline in the story.


Mr. SIMPSON: That's true, that's true. I actually went over and visited the Green Street lab before we came to New York and there is a huge cliff and I'd hear about that. And I think the most of the stuff was at the front of the building, so that's - it was kind of a lucky break when that happened. But it's a beautiful spot if you ever in San Francisco, you should go check it out.

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah. Okay. I'd have to do that. Let's go to Jodie(ph) in Washington.

Hi Jodie.

JODIE (Caller): Yes. Hello, thanks for taking my call.

FLATOW: Go ahead.

JODIE: I saw the show on Wednesday and just wanted to compliment you all. I really, truly enjoyed it and I think what I found most moving by the whole thing was how sad it is what he could have done, what Farnsworth could have done had he sort of been given his due for this.

FLATOW: Hmm. And…

JODIE: And that we, as a culture, suffered from that. So - and I also would like to really thank Jimmi. I was riveted by your performance. I just really couldn't take my eyes off you. So thank you very, very much.

Mr. SIMPSON: Well, thank you very much. It's very kind.

FLATOW: Thanks for calling, Jodie.

If you go on YouTube now, you can watch an "I've Got a Secret" segment with Philo Farnsworth. Did you see this one?

Mr. McANUFF: We've seen it. Yeah.

FLATOW: Isn't it amazing?

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah.

Mr. SIMPSON: It's refreshing.

Mr. AZARIA: That's just heartbreaking that they hand him a greasy wad of dollar bills and a pack of - a carton of cigarettes…

Mr. SIMPSON: A pack of Winston's.

Mr. AZARIA: Oh, man, it's rough.

(Soundbite of television)

Mr. SIMPSON: Thanks for inventing television.

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah. Yeah.

FLATOW: But he also describes high-definition television, did you notice?


FLATOW: He described the future…

Mr. McANUFF: Absolutely.

FLATOW: He described 2,000 lines, which is high-definition television, and he described TV compression, where he said, you know, if we make the memory big enough, we can save part of the picture in the camera.

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah.

FLATOW: You know, that's how compression works, that's just — we only write part of the screen over again. That's changed. So…

Mr. AZARIA: And you know what this caller just said was absolutely true. A about Jimmi's performance, and B, about the - that's true. That's part of the play that's 100 percent truthful.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. AZARIA: Philo Farnsworth was so tortured with all this nonsense for so long that he really was distracted from doing - he was an Einstein-level genius, absolutely, and had his eye on a lot of bigger fish.

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah, he was the Mozart of science and…

Mr. AZARIA: His fusion work in the '60s was wonderful. And then ITT, I mean…


Mr. AZARIA: …if you had the fame…


Mr. AZARIA: …of television, ITT…

Mr. McANUFF: And the money.

Mr. AZARIA: …wouldn't have - and the money, ITT wouldn't have withdrawn his funding right as he was - had 30 seconds of fusion happening. They just pulled it right there.

FLATOW: Well, you know, he was the one who won last year - person of the year of the small inventor.

Mr. AZARIA: Yes.

FLATOW: You know, without the company, without the Bell Labs, without the RCAs - working by himself.

All right listen. We're talking about "The Farnsworth Invention" on TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow. Here with Hank Azaria, Jimmi Simpson and Des McAnuff, right? Got it that right.

Mr. McANUFF: Perfect.

FLATOW: Gosh, I'm losing it.

Mr. McANUFF: Thank you.

FLATOW: Our number 1-800-989-8255. The audiences really - they really eat up this play, Hank. I was really - I'm pleasantly surprised to see how they're willing to sit through a nice story. I mean, a story is what it's all about anyhow, is it? Telling a good story.

Mr. AZARIA: Yeah, you know, I actually saw the play in La Jolla before I was involved in it and I was riveted. I mean, I'm admittedly a geek who will love this kind of thing. I wasn't sure that it would translate to everybody. But to me, it plays like a fascinating documentary that slowly but surely starts to work its way down from your brain into your heart, you know…

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. AZARIA: …you're even not aware how that's happening.

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. AZARIA: It really only smacks you with that at the very end.

FLATOW: Yeah. We used to talk to the authors of a lot of science fiction films - the "Star Trek" and all those kinds of shows - and we talk about the technology of it. And it was Leonard Nimoy who said to us one day, it's basically the story that really counts, you know, in the drama of the theater that's going to keep people in. You have to have a good story. And I don't think - who would have thought this would make such a good story?

Mr. SIMPSON: That's what everybody says. They always come in, you know, we're coming to see the invention of television and we're just blown away by the depth of the people in the story that's going on and…


Mr. McANUFF: And it's also - I think it's a great performance vehicle because these are characters that become revealed through the action of a story. They're not characters who sit there having, you know, sort of studying their navels and having revelations and…

FLATOW: Right.

Mr. McANUFF: …it's not that kind of play. It's a really kinetic, active, you know, story and the characters are revealed through that. And we have, I think, an extraordinary cast that Hank and Jimmi lead. But there are also, you know 17 other fantastic actors.

Mr. SIMPSON: Yeah.

Mr. McANUFF: We don't get to see large canvas plays…

FLATOW: Switching hats like crazy on this.

Mr. McANUFF: …and we don't get to see large canvas plays like this…


Mr. McANUFF: …for, you know - American playwrights don't get to write plays like this anymore. And it's a great shame.

Mr. AZARIA: I haven't learned any of their names, but they're all very good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: I have the playbill right here. And there are other - I mean, we talk about this a lot. There are so many other stories out there that, you know, as science geeks and people who read - I love the history of science and I read all these stories - there are so many more of them out there, you know, starting with the "Double Helix," you know, and Roselyn Franklin.

Mr. McANUFF: Absolutely.

FLATOW: And people like that, you know, play about her and her life and how she died before she got any recognition for how much she put, you know, into stories like this. One can only hope that when the success of your play will bring out more of these playwrights who want to do these things.

Mr. McANUFF: Yeah.

Mr. AZARIA: I hope so.

FLATOW: So you're going to be running until you close.

Mr. McANUFF: As long as we can. And, you know - and we're doing actually quite well. This is normally a very difficult week, the second week of, you know, after, you know, the first of the year and we're actually really quite pleased. This is a great week to come out and see us because there are some seats, but we're, you know, all in all, we're really thrilled with the response.

FLATOW: Yeah, and we can only hope that maybe there'll be a road show somewhere after the play is…

Mr. McANUFF: We like those.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIMPSON: We like those road shows.

FLATOW: Because we - all the time, when we talk about plays in New York and people say when is it coming out to San Francisco?

Mr. SIMPSON: Right. That's true. Yeah.

Mr. McANUFF: I think it would be, you know, it certainly audiences really do love it and so I think the play has a very strong future.


Mr. AZARIA: Maybe not in Vegas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McANUFF: Maybe not in Vegas.

FLATOW: Well, if it goes to Vegas it has to stay in Vegas.

Mr. SIMPSON: That's right.

FLATOW: Okay. We like to thank all of you for taking the time to be with us. Jimmi Simpson, Hank Azaria, Des McAnuff, all the prime players who could make it into our small studio here on SCIENCE FRIDAY, "The Farnsworth Invention" is at the Music Box Theater in New York. I really highly recommend it. The way it's put together, the way it brings you, the audience, into the play and makes you feel like you're a part of the action is terrific.

Thank you all for taking time to be with us today.

Mr. SIMPSON: Thank you.

Mr. McANUFF: Thank you.

Mr. AZARIA: Thank you.

FLATOW: You can surf over to our Web site at sciencefriday.com. Also, we're podcasting and blogging. And you folks over there in "Second Life," you're avatars wanting to talk more about it. Hey, you could pick a free T-shirt and do that. So we're more than happy to help you out there. Also, SCIENCE FRIDAY'S kid's connection, some of our old teaching materials are still up there on the Web site for you to download.

Have a great week. We'll see you next week. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.