Public Release:  LSU biologist and playwright hosts symposium on 'Science in the Theatre' at 2010 AAAS Conference

Vince LiCata leads panel on the role of science in theatre with prominent playwrights, professionals

Louisiana State University

BATON ROUGE - Vince LiCata, LSU's Louis S. Flowers Professor of Biological Sciences and published playwright, is organizing a unique symposium at the upcoming 2010 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS. His session will marry two seemingly disparate topics: science and the theatre.

This year, the annual AAAS meeting's theme is "Bridging Science and Society."

LiCata's symposium on "Science in the Theatre" fits the bill perfectly.

"Theatre has long served as a forum for introduction of new thinking, new attitudes and new world-views, directly into the intelligentsia," said LiCata. "As such, theatre is one of the most logical bridges between science and the arts, between science and society."

In addition to LiCata, who will serve as moderator, two other playwrights as well as a top science-in-the-arts producer will speak at the symposium.

Carl Djerassi, Stanford University professor and the co-inventor of the birth control pill, will speak about his own science plays, as will Lauren Gunderson, a professional playwright who was just appointed the first "Playwright in Residence" at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Cali. Brian Schwartz, a physicist from City University of New York, or CUNY, will also be present. For the past decade, he has produced and served as curator to an ongoing and highly successful "Science and the Arts" performance series at CUNY.

Getting more - and more accurate - science into the arts is becoming more of a priority for both governmental funding agencies and private research foundations.

"It has become increasingly clear that much of the public gain the majority of their understanding of scientific issues and the process of science from entertainment sources," said LiCata. "As a result, making sure that entertainment media dealing with science represent it as accurately as possible is more important than ever, since there is a good chance that what they portray will actually have tangible effects on public science policy decisions." Efforts toward improving science in entertaining truly run the gamut.

"We're seeing lots of different approaches," said LiCata. "Everything from helping make funny TV shows more science friendly to producing professional theatrical plays about science and scientists. There are even efforts to make science fiction less pure fantasy and more realistic possibility."

Theatre, unlike film and television, affords more complex and in-depth explorations of scientific subjects. Successful efforts from both sides of the "great divide" have been produced in recent years (professional playwrights writing science-plays, and working scientists writing professionally produced plays). The bulk of the efforts have gone toward encouraging mainstream playwrights to write about more science. LiCata's symposium focuses slightly more on scientists who have written and produced plays but presents from both sides of the two cultures.

"Because the theatre serves as an incubator that feeds other media like film and television, accurate theatrical depictions of science (both its process and results) are important for improving understanding of science across all performance media," said LiCata.

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Contact Ashley Berthelot
LSU Media Relations
225-578-3870
aberth4@lsu.edu

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