“Science on Stage” will return, live and in person, to Stony Brook University this fall.
An uncommon application of science communication, the show transforms cutting-edge research into art to bring together individuals with different interests and spark transdisciplinary conversations.
The program consists of three original one-act plays inspired by Stony Brook researchers, written by professional playwrights, and performed by professional actors. The event will end with a panel discussion between the researchers and playwrights.
The event will be held on Monday, October 30, at 4 pm in Staller Center’s Theater Two. It is free and open to the public.
“When people have to communicate their scholarship across domains like this, it forces a different kind of communication,” said Ken Weitzman, associate professor in the Department of English, who conceived of and leads the program. “Scientists have to think in terms of communicating to playwrights in lay terms and in terms of what is story worthy. The playwrights have to think of a way to communicate that story to an audience with a wide variety of people. Just having to map your work into different domains means you have to make certain imaginative leaps and have to engage in what it means to be truly interdisciplinary.”
This year’s pairings are:
- Nilanjan Chakraborty, associate professor of mechanical engineering, with two-time Tony Award winning playwright Greg Kotis, best known for “Urinetown”
- Heather Lynch, professor in ecology and evolution, and Michele Lowe, whose first play made it to Broadway and stages across the globe
- Suparna Rajaram, distinguished professor of cognitive science in the Department of Psychology, and Rogelio Martinez, whose plays have been produced around the U.S. and internationally.
The show will be directed by Jackson Gay, a founding member of New Neighborhood, a socially interactive theater group, and director of artistic programming at Fuller Road Artist Retreat in Vermont. Weitzman is leading the project with support from Abby Bender, a science communication graduate student. Bender, a lifelong devotee of theater, has already been invited to give a presentation about the production at the Theatre about Science Conference in Portugal in November.
“I have been working to combine scientific research and theater performance since I was an undergraduate,” said Bender. “I was so incredibly excited when I found out that Ken Weitzman was working on a second rendition of his Science on Stage project not only because I would get to work on something I am passionate about but I would have the opportunity to work with someone who is interested in using theater for science communication.”
Weitzman conceived of the Science on Stage project in 2019, with funding from the Kavli Foundation via the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Because of the pandemic, the event was designed and planned to be performed live online. It inspired other scientific and theater groups in Colorado and Rhode Island to craft and deliver their own versions of the event.
This year’s production is being funded with a Provostial Seed Grant for Interdisciplinary Work: Creative Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities, with assistance from the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Alda Center.
“I am regularly in awe of the creative interdisciplinary collaborations that our researchers and scholars pursue at Stony Brook. This project is a great example, bringing together artists and scientists to put a spotlight on Stony Brook’s innovation and discovery in the most literal sense,” said Carl Lejuez, provost and executive vice president. “I am glad to see this project continue in-person and pleased to support this project through the CASSH seed grants.”