The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project (EST/Sloan, for short) is an initiative designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling work exploring the worlds of science and technology and to challenge the existing stereotypes of scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past 17 years The EST/Sloan Project has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to some 270 playwrights and theatre companies. During this time more than 150 productions of EST/Sloan-developed plays have been mounted nationwide. (You can view previous commission recipients on the EST/Sloan webpage).
Every year the highlight of the EST/Sloan Project submission season (September 1 to November 1) is the Fall Artist Cultivation Event. At this eagerly anticipated event, a panel of scientists, science writers and playwrights engages in a far-ranging and free-wheeling discussion with an audience of prospective playwrights about “what could make a great play about science.” The 2015 Fall Artist Cultivation Event will take place at EST on Tuesday, October 20 at 7 PM. The event is free and any playwright interested in developing a play about science or technology is welcome to attend.
This year's panelists include:
Neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin, Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychiatry, and Assistant Professor, Neuroscience, Mount Sinai Hospital where she conducts research to better understand the neural basis of impulsivity, compulsivity, and emotion with the goal of developing more targeted treatment. This past summer Dr. Berlin collaborated with her husband, the rapper Baba Brinkman, to create Off the Top, a science/improv/comedy show which enjoyed a very successful run to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A popular lecturer and frequent guest on science talk shows, she currently co-hosts CUNY-TV’s Science Goes to the Movies with Faith Salie.
Bioethicist Dr. Tia Powell, Director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics and of the Einstein Cardozo Master of Science in Bioethics program, and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Division of Bioethics, and Clinical Psychiatry. She has bioethics expertise in public policy, dementia, consultation, end of life care, decision-making capacity, bioethics education and the ethics of public health disasters. She served four years as Executive Director of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, which functions as New York State’s bioethics commission. Dr. Powell has worked with the Institute of Medicine on many projects related to public health and ethics, and most recently served on the 2015 report on Cognitive Aging. She is a board certified psychiatrist and Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association and The Hastings Center.
Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer, author of Informed Consent, which EST co-produced this summer with Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street to much critical and popular acclaim as this year’s EST/Sloan Mainstage Production. Deb is also the author of End Days (EST/Sloan 2009 Mainstage Production and awarded The ATCA Steinberg citation). End Days received a rolling work premiere through the National New Play Network, and went on to receive over 50 productions after that. Her other plays include Leveling Up, Sirens, Out of Sterno, The Last Schwartz, Meta, The Three Sisters of Weehawken, Fortune, The Gulf of Westchester, Miniatures, and Random Acts. Deb has received the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award and the Lilly Award.
Playwright Anna Ziegler, author of Photograph 51, currently running on the West End in London, directed by Michael Grandage and starring Nicole Kidman, and the 2010 EST/Sloan Mainstage production. Anna’s other plays include The Last Match (upcoming at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, CA and City Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA), Boy (upcoming at Keen Company/Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City), A Delicate Ship (The Playwrights Realm, August-September, 2015 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, New York City, previously produced at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park), Another Way Home (upcoming in Washington DC at Theater J; previously produced at The Magic Theatre, San Francisco, CA), Dov and Ali (Theatre503; The Playwrights Realm), The Minotaur (Rorschach Theatre; Synchronicity Theatre) and BFF (WET Productions at the DR2 Theatre, New York City).
This year’s moderator will be journalist and science writer Robin Marantz Henig, author of nine books and current president of the National Association of Science Writers. A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Robin has also written for Scientific American, The Washington Post, Discover and numerous women’s magazines. Her book on the first test-tube baby, Pandora’s Baby (2004), won the Outstanding Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Most recently, Robin collaborated with her daughter Samantha Henig to write Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck? (2014).
You can read a blog post about last year’s Artist Cultivation Event.
Photograph of Heather Berlin by Ben Bhatia