Man: Biology of a Fall



MAN: Biology of a Fall

The third installment of the Defenestration Trilogy has been completed. The libretto, again by Gary Heidt, is entitled Man: Biology of a Fall. A workshop of some portion of this opera occurred at Galapagos Art Space (12/17/03 - 8 PM) in Brooklyn, partially underwritten by a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council Community Regrant Program. The full premiere is now scheduled for October 4, 5, 6, & 7, 2007 at Kumble Theater of the Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York.

Man: Biology of a Fall

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The protagonist is Frank Olson, a Wisconsin chemist and father of three who worked in the Army Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) in America's fledgling biological warfare program. He was among the first Americans to research biological agents as weaponry, research that was being led at the time by Great Britain and Canada. His duties also included mind control research in the MK ULTRA program and the interrogation of former American POW's returning from the Korean conflict in 1953. He died under mysterious circumstances in late November, 1953, having "fallen or jumped" (or thrown) from the window of a New York City hotel one week after attending a top secret retreat where he, and other S.O.D. scientists, was given LSD against his knowledge. After attempting to quit his job days after the lake retreat incident, he was sent to New York City for psychiatric evaluation, a trip from which he never returned.

Our scenario elaborates upon the few known facts of the day-to-day events surrounding Frank Olson's final week, building a forward-moving narrative while commenting on timeless socio-political themes. After introductory material (involving Olson and MI5 agent, William Sargant), an extensive scene is devoted to the retreat at which S.O.D. scientists were drugged. Subsequent events include Olson's final days at Camp Detrick; a session with New York immunologist, Harold Abramson (serving as a psychiatrist); a visit with John Mulholland, a New York magician in the service of the CIA; Thanksgiving dinner at a New York City automat with the accompanying CIA watchdog, Robert Lashbrook; a visit to the Greenwich Village safe house run by interrogation "expert" George White; and what might have happened in Frank Olson's hotel room on that fateful night in 1953.

Thus, a very famous unsolved political murder inspires a multi-layered exploration of biological warfare, mind control research, the early CIA, New York City of 1953, and the more human elements of family, religion, ethics, and deception.


Website: The Frank Olson Legacy Project

Website: Seredipity

Wikipedia: MK-ULTRA


The National Security Archive declassifies "The Family Jewels" - June, 2007

Pop Culture:

2006 Film "The Good Shepherd" references Olson


Our opera alluded to in the 2004 Jon Ronson book "The Men Who Stare At Goats"


Miscellaneous MK-ULTRA