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Stony Brook University brings science to the theater - WSHU

Author: WSHU

Source: https://www.wshu.org/long-island-news/2023-10-30/stony-brook-university-science-theater

Image of Stony Brook University brings science to the theater - WSHU

Published October 30, 2023 at 8:11 AM EDTThe curtains are set to rise on an event that aims to transform the often complex world of science into a mesmerizing and accessible theatrical showcase.Science on Stage is returning to Stony Brook University at 4 p.m.on Oct 30.at the Staller Center for the Arts.“We have plays written by really prominent playwrights that have engaged with cutting edge research and researchers here at Stony Brook,” said Ken Weitzman, program director and associate professor in the English department.“And the result is three fascinating plays that will be performed by top notch actors and will engage both the emotions and the intellect.”The program comprises three one-act plays, with nearly an hour total run time which allocates approximately 20 minutes per play. Following the performances, a discussion panel will provide the audience with an opportunity to delve deeper into the creative process, and the meld of science and art.“I think the concept of science on stage is brilliant,” said Suparna Rajaram, distinguished professor of cognitive science.“It's really about how a broad and well rounded education brings together different areas of scholarships that in the end are about us as human beings and the environment we live in.”Rajaram is one of the three scientists whose work serves as the inspiration for the plays.Her study revolves around social memory, which is the nature of how memory can be affected through one’s interaction and discussions with others.Rajaram is partnered with playwright Rogelio Martinez.“He translated the science so creatively and transformed it into dialogue for characters all while staying true to the research,” Rajaram said.“Creative collaborations like this help us get out of our silos and get new ideas flowing.”Other pairings include mechanical engineer Nilanjan Chakraborty with two-time Tony Award winning playwright Greg Kotis whose play explores implications of artificial intelligence in robotics. While Heather Lynch, ecology and evolution professor, and playwright Michele Lowe brings Lynch’s examination on penguins in tracking climate change to the stage.“Even though these plays are performed in the concert style reading, I think most people will feel like they've actually seen the play even though it was only actors at music stands,” Weitzman said.“These actors are so skilled and the playwrights are so skilled that it will really feel like a full theatrical experience.”The program is supported by the university’s Provostial Seed Grant for Interdisciplinary Work Creative Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, the Department of English, as well as the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.“It's important to display the power of storytelling and the importance of theater on this campus,” Weitzman said.“It’s engagement with the research, it’s not like you’re going to walk out feeling like you’ve learned from a lecture but rather watched a magical, mysterious, wonderful play.”Science on Stage aims to be an elevating experience for the audience and shed light on the intricate connection between the creative arts and the sciences, dispelling the misconception that they exist in vastly different worlds.“The program marries these scientific disciplines with the arts,” Rajaram said.“I hope [the event] will be a chance where the audience thinks about the mysteries in the arts and sciences, find joy in understanding and spark their curiosity.”Weitzman launched this program in 2019, hosting the inaugural event online due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, which makes this years’ significant milestone as Science on Stage comes to life in a live, in-person setting for the very first time.“I'm really excited to share it with a live audience and to feel that response,” Weitzman said.“And I hope it intrigues people in terms of the science itself that's being portrayed, that they have questions about it, that they want to research more and at a base level that it's entertaining for people.”The program will be free and open to all. A panel discussion with the scientists and playwrights follows the show.

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