Kassie Bracken to join Dr. Tia Powell, Amy Harmon, Deb Laufer, and members of the cast to discuss INFORMED CONSENT

September 10 panel collage 2.jpg

From left, Tia Powell, Amy Harmon, Kassie Bracken, Deb Laufer

This just in: New York Times Senior Video Journalist Kassie Bracken will join Dr. Tia Powell, Director, Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics and Einstein Cardozo Master of Science in Bioethics; Professor, Clinical Epidemiology, Clinical Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Amy Harmon, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer and members of the cast for the fifth and final Thursday Talkback about What Obligations Do Researchers Have to Their Subjects: Bioethics and Clinical Research — an issue very much at the center of INFORMED CONSENT — following the play’s September 10 performance at The Duke on 42nd Street.  

Dr. Tia Powell is Director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics and of the Einstein Cardozo Master of Science in Bioethics program. She is 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.  She 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. Dr. Powell graduated magna cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College. At Yale Medical School she earned the Parker Prize, Yale’s highest award for a graduating medical student. She completed her internship, psychiatric residency and Consultation-Liaison fellowship at Columbia.  She is a board certified psychiatrist and Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association and The Hastings Center.

Amy Harmon is a national correspondent for the Times, covering the impact of science and technology on American life. She has won two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 2008 for her series, “The DNA Age,” the other as part of a team for the series “How Race is Lived in America,” in 2001. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in science writing in 2013. It was Harmon’s reporting on the Havasupai case in the Times that inspired Laufer to write INFORMED CONSENT. In 2014, her articles on genetically engineered crops were awarded a prize for in-depth reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Science in Society award from the National Association of Science Writers. Autism has long been in interest of Harmon’s. Her article, “Autistic and Seeking a Place in an Adult World’’ won the 2012 Casey Medal for excellence in reporting on children and families, and the Times published a Kindle Single version of her story, “Asperger Love.’’ In 2011, her series about the clinical testing of a new cancer drug received the National Academies of Science award for print journalism. Harmon has written about her adventures on a treadmill-desk and the search for wildness on a family vacation in Costa Rica. Harmon’s career began at The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Michigan, where she earned a B.A. in American culture. She lives in New York City with her husband and eleven-year-old daughter.

Kassie Bracken is a Senior Video Journalist for The New York Times, where she reports, produces, shoots, and edits feature stories and short documentaries. She produced video features for Amy Harmon's 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning series "The DNA Age," on the impact of new genetic technology on everyday life and for Dan Barry's 2010 Pulitzer Prize-finalist "This Land" series, on the effects of the recession across the U.S. In connection with Amy Harmon’s reporting on the Havasupai’s lawsuit against Arizona State University, Bracken produced “Blood Journey,” the very moving video about the tribe’s efforts to reclaim their blood. Her work has been recognized with NPPA's Best of PhotoJournalism awards, the Katherine Schneider Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, and by The New York Association of Black Journalists. She was a Peter Jennings Fellow and a RIAS/RTNDA Fellow and is an adjunct professor at CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism. Bracken is a graduate of Wesleyan University and will soon complete her master's degree in Human Rights Studies at Columbia University.  

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 Emily Gawlak on StageBuddy, Deb Laufer described the gestation of the play:

“It started because I ran into Linsay Firman, the associate director of The EST/Sloan Project and she said — I ran into her at a party — “you have four days to get a proposal in for the next commission.” And I was like, oy. I went home and I went on Facebook, and I said, “guys, I need good ideas for my next science play, send me articles if you've got them.” I have a really great friend who's a scientist at UPenn, and he sent me the article from the New York Times about the Havasupai, and it was, you know, everything that sort of fascinates me, what people believe and why, when science and religion come up against each other. So I wrote the proposal the next day, and they accepted it. So then I had to write the play (laughs). It's like, oh my gosh, what have I gotten into? And I knew I wanted to write about the genome, because I knew very little about it, and I wanted to know more.”

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. 

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.