Dr. Heather Berlin joins Deb Laufer and members of the cast to discuss INFORMED CONSENT with the audience on September 3

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In the fourth of five Thursday Night Talkbacks, Dr. Heather Berlin, Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychiatry, and Assistant Professor, Neuroscience, Mount Sinai Hospital, will be joining playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer and members of the cast for a lively talkback about What Career and Workplace Issues Do Women Scientists Face? and What Risk/Benefit Tradeoffs Do Scientists Confront in Clinical Research? — issues very much at the heart of INFORMED CONSENT — following the play’s September 3 performance at The Duke on 42nd Street.  

Dr. Heather Berlin is joining the panel fresh from her recent stint performing – to rave reviews – with her husband, the rapper Baba Brinkman, in their science/improv/comedy show, Off the Top, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. When she isn’t on stage, Heather conducts research at Mt. Sinai Hospital to better understand the neural basis of impulsivity, compulsivity, and emotion with the goal of more targeted treatment. She employs neuroimaging and neuropsychological and psychopharmacological testing of brain lesion and compulsive, impulsive, and personality disorder patients.  She is also interested in the neural basis of consciousness and dynamic unconscious processes. A popular lecturer and frequent guest on science talk shows, Heather currently co-hosts CUNY-TV’s Science Goes to the Movies with Faith Salie.

Deborah Zoe Laufer’s plays have been produced at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, Cleveland Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, ATL’s Humana Festival, Portland Stage, and seventy other theaters around the country, in Germany, and in Russia. End Days was awarded The ATCA Steinberg citation and appeared at EST through an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant. It’s listed in The Burns Mantle Yearbook as one of the best regional plays of 2008, and is published by Smith and Kraus in The Best Plays of 2008. Other plays include Leveling Up, Sirens, Out of Sterno, The Last Schwartz, Meta, Fortune, The Gulf of Westchester, Miniatures, and Random Acts. She’s currently writing a work commissioned by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

In INFORMED CONSENT, the passion the lead researcher Jillian, a genetic anthropologist, brings to her work is fueled by a personal dilemma. Will she inherit her mother’s gene for Alzheimer’s? Will her daughter? Jillian is studying the incredibly high incidence of diabetes among a tribe of Native Americans – and her research opens up the possibility of major discoveries in other areas – cancer, schizophrenia, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s – areas not covered by what the tribe has authorized.

In a recent interview with Ira Flatow on Science Friday, Deb described the two characters at the center of INFORMED CONSENT:

“I saw a number of Ted Talks where there were scientists who might be considered a little bit “fringe” or maybe even crackpot who think we’re very close to finding a way to become immortal and who believe that if we all just give up our genomic material research will speed along so quickly that we’ll find a way to become immortal or our children’s children to become immortal. And I thought what if I had a character like that who’s also in a race against time because she also knows her own genetic history and her genetic future because she has early onset Alzheimer’s? I wanted a character who is so driven that she would really go to any lengths to save her daughter.  And the spokesperson I have for the tribe, Arella, her mother died of diabetes and she’s also worried about her daughter so it’s very much about mothers and daughters and what we pass on to the next generation.”

INFORMED CONSENT dramatizes many of the dilemmas facing working scientists – and all of us – today: the clash of cultures, the intersection of science and religion, the ethics of genetic research, questions of identity and how much we really want to know about ourselves.

Join us for what promises to be a stimulating and memorable evening – or come to the one remaining talkback after the last Thursday evening performance on August 10. 

The Off-Broadway Premiere at The Duke on 42nd Street of INFORMED CONSENT by Deborah Zoe Laufer is being co-produced by Primary Stages and The Ensemble Studio Theatre through EST's partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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