Skip to main content

‘Unmediated’ Science Plays: Seeing What Sticks

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr examines contemporary science theatre, with particular attention paid to interdisciplinary and experimental theatre emerging across Europe. These dramas reveal, Shepherd-Barr argues, that it is the process of working towards a piece of theatre rather than the finished product that is of greatest interest, both to audiences and to the theatre-makers themselves. Such theatrical performances invite extensive participation in meaning-making amongst all of those involved, including a range of scientific consultants. In conclusion, Shepherd-Barr reads these new dramas as extensively interdisciplinary and co-produced, leading to a new form of productively entangled epistemological experience.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr, Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015) and Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to Copenhagen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, 2012); Sue-Ellen Case, Performing Science and the Virtual (New York: Routledge, 2006), Tamsen Wolff, Mendel’s Theatre: Heredity, Eugenics, and Early Twentieth-Century American Drama (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Eva-Sabine Zehelein, Science: Dramatic: Science Plays in America and Great Britain, 1990–2007 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009), and Liliane Campos, Sciences en scène (Rennes: PUR, 2012).

  2. 2.

    See for example two recent special issues of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews on ‘New Directions in Theatre and Science’, co-edited by Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr and Carina Bartleet, 38.4 (2013) and 39.3 (2014); a special issue of Theatre Journal edited by Bruce McConachie on ‘Performance and Cognition’, 59.4 (2007); and a forthcoming book, Performance and the Medical Body, eds Alex Mermikides and Gianna Bouchard (Methuen Bloomsbury, 2016). ‘Intermediality’ refers to the use of different media within a single work of art.

  3. 3.

    Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1978), William Demastes, Staging Consciousness: Theater and the Materialization of Mind (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), Jane R. Goodall, Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin: Out of the Natural Order (London: Routledge, 2002), and Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 27.3 (2002), 38.4 (2013), and 39.3 (2014).

  4. 4.

    Evolution and Victorian Culture eds Bernard Lightman and Bennett Zon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship, 1840–1910 eds Joe Kember, John Plunkett, and Jill A. Sullivan (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012); Bernard Lightman, Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) ; and Goodall, Performance and Evolution.

  5. 5.

    Shepherd-Barr, Science on Stage, Chaps. 4 and 6.

  6. 6.

    Shepherd-Barr, ‘Darwin on Stage: Evolutionary Theory in the Theatre’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 33.2 (2008), 107–115.

  7. 7.

    Shepherd-Barr, Science on Stage, pp. 114–122.

  8. 8.

    Karen C. Blansfield, ‘Atom and Eve: The Mating of Science and Humanism’, South Atlantic Review, 68.4 (2003), 1–16.

  9. 9.

    Jean-François Peyret, interview with the author, Cambridge, England (March 2004), trans. Lisbeth Shepherd, quoted in Shepherd-Barr, Science on Stage, p. 202.

  10. 10.

    Luca Ronconi, interview with the author, Teatro Piccolo, Milan (May 2003), trans. Pino Donghi.

  11. 11.

    Shepherd-Barr, Science on Stage, pp. 199–218, and ‘Des ‘Liens significatifs’: Luca Ronconi et les scientifiques’ [‘“Meaningful Joinings”: Luca Ronconi and the Scientists’], Alternatives théâtrales, 102–103 (2009), 28–33; and Shepherd-Barr and Liliane Campos, ‘Open Dialogues between Science and Theatre: Biblioetica, Le Cas de Sophie K., and the Postdramatic Science Play’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 31.3 (2006), 245–253.

  12. 12.

    Carl Djerassi, An Immaculate Misconception (London: Imperial College Press, 2001) and Anna Furse, Yerma’s Eggs (2003), accessed via http://www.gold.ac.uk/theatre-performance/research/practice-as-research/drama/research/furse-eggs/; and see Furse, ‘Hospital Drama: Visual Theatres of the Medical Rendezvous from Asylum to Hospital with Reference to Specific Works by Anna Furse’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 39.3 (2014), 238–257.

  13. 13.

    From Peyret’s introduction to the play on his company’s website, accessed via http://theatrefeuilleton2.net/spectacles/ex-vivo-in-vitro/

  14. 14.

    Detailed information on the play and its production history can be found on the website of Theatre Feuilleton 2, accessed via http://theatrefeuilleton2.net/spectacles/ex-vivo-in-vitro/

  15. 15.

    Other productions are listed on the company website, accessed via http://theatrefeuilleton2.net/spectacles/

  16. 16.

    Hans-Thies Lehmann, Postdramatic Theatre, trans. Karen Jürs-Munby (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 86.

  17. 17.

    Marco De Marinis, trans. Marie Pecorari, ‘New Theatrology and Performance Studies’, TDR: The Drama Review, 55.4 (2011), 64–74.

  18. 18.

    For a comprehensive example of all three of these trends, see Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 27.3 (2002).

  19. 19.

    Stuart Firestein, Ignorance: How it Drives Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

  20. 20.

    C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures: And a Second Look (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), pp. 16, 25, 71.

  21. 21.

    Interdisciplinarity: Reconfigurations of the Social and Natural Sciences, eds Andrew Barry and Georgina Born (London: Routledge, 2013), p. 1.

  22. 22.

    Helga Nowotny, Peter Scott and Michael Gibbons, Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty (2001), cited in Barry and Born, pp. 1–2.

  23. 23.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 4.

  24. 24.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 5.

  25. 25.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 5.

  26. 26.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 5.

  27. 27.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 6.

  28. 28.

    Jure Gantar, ‘Catching the Wind in a Net: The Shortcomings of Existing Methods for the Analysis of Performance’, Modern Drama, 39.4 (1996), 537–546, and Emma Smith, ‘“Freezing the Snowman”: (How) Can We Do Performance Criticism?’, in How to Do Things with Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays, ed. Laurie Maguire (Blackwell, 2008), pp. 280–297.

  29. 29.

    M. Strathern, “Social Property: An Interdisciplinary Experiment” (2004), quoted in Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 8.

  30. 30.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 9.

  31. 31.

    Barry and Born, eds., Interdisciplinarity, p. 11.

Bibliography

  • Altick, Richard D., The Shows of London (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  • Barry, Andrew, and Georgina Born, eds, Interdisciplinarity: Reconfigurations of the Social and Natural Sciences (London: Routledge, 2013).

    Google Scholar 

  • Blansfield, Karen C., ‘Atom and Eve: The Mating of Science and Humanism’, South Atlantic Review, 68.4 (2003), 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  • Campos, Liliane, Sciences en scène (Rennes: PUR, 2012).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Campos, Liliane, and Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, ‘Open Dialogues between Science and Theatre: Biblioetica, Le Cas de Sophie K., and the Postdramatic Science Play’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 31.3 (2006), 245–53.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Case, Sue-Ellen, Performing Science and the Virtual (New York: Routledge, 2006).

    Google Scholar 

  • De Marinis, Marco, translated Marie Pecorari, ‘New Theatrology and Performance Studies’, TDR: The Drama Review, 55.4 (2011), 64–74.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Demastes, William, Staging Consciousness: Theater and the Materialization of Mind (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  • Djerassi, Carl, An Immaculate Misconception (London: Imperial College Press, 2000).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Firestein, Stuart, Ignorance: How it Drives Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  • Furse, Anna, ‘Hospital Drama: Visual Theatres of the Medical Rendezvous from Asylum to Hospital with Reference to Specific Works by Anna Furse’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 39.3 (2014), 238–57.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Gantar, Jure, ‘Catching the Wind in a Net: The Shortcomings of Existing Methods for the Analysis of Performance’, Modern Drama, 39.4 (1996), 537–46.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Goodall, Jane R., Performance and Evolution in the Age of Darwin: Out of the Natural Order (London: Routledge, 2002).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kember, Joseph, John Plunkett, and Jill A. Sullivan, eds, Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship, 1840–1910 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehmann, Hans-Thies, Postdramatic Theatre. Trans. Karen Jürs-Munby (London: Routledge, 2006).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lightman, Bernard, Victorian Popularizers of Science: Designing Nature for New Audiences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lightman, Bernard, and Bennett Zon, eds, Evolution and Victorian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  • Nowotny, Helga, Peter Scott and Michael Gibbons, Re-Thinking Science: Knowledge and the Public in an Age of Uncertainty (Cambridge: Polity, 2001).

    Google Scholar 

  • Peyret, Jean-Fraçois, accessed via <http://theatrefeuilleton2.net/spectacles/ex-vivo-in-vitro/>.

  • Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten, Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to Copenhagen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten, ‘Darwin on Stage: Evolutionary Theory in the Theatre’, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 33.2 (2008), 107–15.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten, Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten, ‘Des ‘Liens significatifs’: Luca Ronconi et les Scientifiques’ [‘“Meaningful Joinings”: Luca Ronconi and the Scientists’], Alternatives théâtrales, 102–3 (2009), 28–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, Emma, ‘“Freezing the Snowman”: (How) Can We Do Performance Criticism?’, in How to Do Things with Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays, ed. Laurie Maguire (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 280–97.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Snow, C.P., The Two Cultures: And a Second Look (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963).

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolff, Tamsen, Mendel’s Theatre: Heredity, Eugenics, and Early Twentieth-Century American Drama (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Zehelein, Eva-Sabine, Science: Dramatic: Science Plays in America and Great Britain, 1990–2007 (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Copyright information

© 2016 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Shepherd-Barr, K.E. (2016). ‘Unmediated’ Science Plays: Seeing What Sticks. In: Willis, M. (eds) Staging Science. Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine. Palgrave Pivot, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-49994-3_6

Download citation