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First Light Festival

When a new telescope becomes operational, the initial images it sees are called First Light.

For 19 years, The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project has led a pioneering nationwide effort to commission, develop, and present hundreds of new plays that question and broaden the view of science in the popular imagination. Each play’s life onstage begins with the First Light festival. Join us for this year’s discoveries.

Mainstage Production

written and directed by Leigh Fondakowski
Wednesday, March 8 - Sunday, April 2

Special Events

The Youngblood Science Brunch
Sunday, March 5 at 1pm
(12:30pm for pancakes and bacon!)
Join EST’s Obie Award-winning playwrights group to ponder the great unsolvable questions of this world and the world beyond... along with a buffet of pancakes, bacon, and (Young)bloody marys.

a Roughcut Workshop of
Midwife/Mechanic, by Chiara Atik
Tuesday, March 21 at 8pm  |  Wednesday, March 22 at 3pm
You can’t possibly know what it’s like unless you’ve been through it, but undaunted, a mechanic tries to make sense of one of the most mysterious facets of life: childbirth.


Reservations are encouraged for all readings. Click on the title of play to be directed to reservations.

Sizzle Sizzle Fly, by Susan Bernfield
Tuesday, January 31 at 8pm
The former computress sits her mini-skirted self down in a Mission Control swivel chair, swings her impeccable long blonde hair and becomes the first woman to slip on the black headset, a NASA engineer.  It’s December 1968, Apollo 8 has gone behind the moon, and it’s Poppy Northcutt’s job to help those dudes splash back down.

The Radio Boys, by Joe Gilford*
Monday, February 6 at 7pm
The early development of radio broadcasting was the work of two geniuses: Edwin H. Armstrong and David Sarnoff. When they teamed up to develop FM radio it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and the start of a tragic battle for ownership of an innovation that would change radio forever.

World Avoided, by Andrea Lepcio
Tuesday, February 7 at 8pm
When the scientific community realized that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, world governments, big business and scientists came together to create a solution. The result was The Montreal Protocol, arguably the world’s most successful climate change agreement.

Damage Ctrl, by Ryan Fogarty
Thursday, February 16 at 7pm
Bay Area programmer, Ken, needs extra funds for the launch of his education gaming platform, so he releases a slapdash smartphone game to make some quick money. When the app is a surprise hit and people become addicted to playing it, Ken grapples with his responsibility to his consumers and technology’s role in society.

Motion Picture Color Fade, by Patrick Link*
Tuesday, February 21 at 8pm
In the early 1900s, a salesman from Detroit rises to become the most powerful man in cinema through conviction, intuition, and one secret ingredient: color. 

Herschel: Portrait of a Killer, by Dustin H. Chinn
Thursday, February 23 at 7pm
Seattle, 1983. Something is haunting the waters of the Ballard Locks, and it’s hungry for endangered steelhead trout. Can the valiant agents of Fish & Wildlife thwart this remorseless predator? 

The Flamingos, by Ryan Dowler
Monday, February 27 at 7pm
An unlikely guest forces Justin, a face transplant recipient, to reexamine the physical, emotional, and experiential topography of his three faces: the one he was born with, the post-accident no-face, and the new one provided by a deceased donor.

Coming Up for Air, by Cassandra Medley*
Tuesday, March 28 at 8pm
Joyce, an African-American fifth grade science teacher from Ohio attends the 2015 Paris Climate Summit, where she meets a prominent climate scientist. Returning home with renewed passion and purpose, her convictions about climate change threaten the pragmatic survival of her family.

Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and Seeking the Truth in Sciences, by Jerry Lieblich
Thursday, March 30 at 3pm
Athanasius Kircher was a seventeenth century polymath of the finest order. Geologist, musicologist, linguist, Egyptologist, Sinologist, physicist, microbiologist, botanist, and inventor. There was just one problem - he pretty much made it all up.

What You Are Now, by Sam Chanse
Thursday, April 27 at 7pm
Pia has a professional interest in fear and memory; they constitute the focus of her research as a not-entirely-fulfilled neuroscience postdoc. But the return of an old acquaintance forces her to confront her family’s history, and a past that is relentlessly and ruthlessly tangled with the present. 

Earlier Event: January 11
Later Event: February 5
Planned ParentBRUNCH