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Bridging Science and Art: Playwriting Competition Readings Return

Science playwriting 2024 group

Science playwriting 2024 group

Since its inception in 2012, the Science Playwriting Competition presented by the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics (SCGP) and C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics has served as a catalyst for storytelling that captivates while illuminating scientific concepts.

After a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year brought a return to in-person readings of the winning plays, performed in front of a full auditorium in the SCGP on May 8.

The competition received more than 130 entries from around the world and is open to the general public to submit a 10-minute play with a substantial science or technological component. The goal is to aesthetically convey scientific concepts to potentially result in further explorations in both disciplines.

The play-reading committee consisted of Steve Marsh, director of the Science Playwriting Competition; George Sterman, distinguished professor, Department of Physics; and Robert Crease, professor, Department of Philosophy. Lorraine Walsh and Maria Guetter of the SCGP organize the competitions.

Scientists and theatre artists are people who have a substantial curiosity about the world. Scientists experiment and so do theatre artists in what is often called a theatre lab. Most importantly, scientific thinking and theatrical thinking can change the world by showing us the possibilities of how things can be,” said Marsh. “As physicists learn, by way of their science, to measure and predict the effects and behaviors of objects and particles large and small, playwrights and actors learn, by way of their art, to measure and predict the effects and behaviors of humans embodied in the characters they create.”

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Almost Certainly Not Real by Claudia Barnett won first place; Slick, Slimy, Grimy, and Dead by Audrey Hunter was awarded second place; The Primrose Protocol by Harold Taw placed third; and honorable mention was awarded to Katacala Nights by Gino Elia.

Elia is a current Stony Brook doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy, and, unbeknownst to the judges while deciding on the winning plays, Hunter (second place winner) is a current senior in high school who will be attending Stanford in the fall to study creative writing.

The winning plays discussed the effects of climate change, the struggles and triumphs of women in science, and space exploration as a necessity for a depleted Earth. The subjects were addressed with humor and poignancy.

The cast included actors who are students, faculty, and science communicators from Long Island, who performed partially staged, script-in-hand readings of the first-, second-, and third-prize winners.

The competition began in 2012 with the assistance of a National Science Foundation grant awarded for scientific outreach projects initiated by physics professor Christopher Herzog, with additional support from the SCGP and the C.N. Yang Institute.

The deadline for submissions for the 2024-25 competition is September 15, 2024. All playwrights with an interest in the sciences, and scientists with an interest in the theatre are invited to compose a 10-minute play with a substantial science and/or technological component for submission to the competition. 

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