Staring at the sun, an original play text (creative writing component): performing science: the portrayal of science and scientists in theatrical performance in relation to questions of practice ethics and politics (thesis component)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This PhD project consists of a creative writing component, the play text titled Staring at the Sun, and a thesis titled ‘Performing Science: the Portrayal of Science and Scientists in theatrical performance in relation to questions of practice, ethics and politics’.

The narrative of Staring at the Sun revolves around cell biologist, Dr Daniel Fredericks, whose ambition drives him to work in the exceptional research facilities provided by Artemis Global. He is trying to achieve the physical immortality of Tanya, a brain-dead cadaver. Daniel’s mother, Brigid, is an expert on The Epic of Gilgamesh, which highlights the futility of Daniel’s quest; Daniel’s father, Connor, is dying from Alzheimer’s disease. When Tanya’s boyfriend, Raf, asks Brigid to help him find out what happened to her, Brigid starts looking into the practices of Artemis Global. She enlists the help of Sandy, a fellow Artemis employee and Daniel’s girlfriend. When confronted with the truth about Tanya, Daniel questions his own motives and ethics and decides to terminate the experiment.

This play text employs the dramaturgical techniques discussed in the thesis. Through an examination of the dramaturgy of significant extant science plays, specifically Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo, Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, Mick Gordon and Paul Broks’ On Ego, and the interventionist theatre of Critical Art Ensemble’s GenTerra, this thesis argues that there is a consistent dramaturgy used in science plays: the orientation of the audience to the science in the opening scenes; the inclusion of a ‘novice’ scientist to prompt explanations of the science; the modification of scientific language; and the use of spoken and performed metaphor. It also discusses the political intentions evident within these works.

The limitations of these approaches will be discussed, but the thesis concludes that a ‘science play’ is not the same as showing ‘real’ science on stage, that is, that the integrity of performance is more important than pedagogy.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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