Geva Theatre Center Continues 41st Season with INFORMED CONSENT, 3/18-4/13
Geva Theatre Center' 41st Season continues with the world premiere of Informed Consent by Deborah Zoe Laufer. Directed by Sean Daniels, this heartwarming, honest and compelling tale, ripped from the headlines and inspired by a true story, begins performances on March 18 and runs in the Elaine P. Wilson Mainstage through April 13.
An ambitious geneticist, Gillian, is hired to help solve why a Native American tribe is being devastated by diabetes, but her research threatens to destroy their most sacred traditions. Meanwhile at home, she and her husband are confronted with the choice of using modern science to determine whether their four year-old daughter will be haunted by the family's medical history. With genomic breakthroughs happening at breakneck speed, Informed Consent explores the question of just how much knowledge is too much.
Deborah Zoe Laufer's plays include End Days (winner of the 2007 ACTA Steinberg citation) which has received over 50 productions worldwide and was cited as one of the best regional plays of 2008; Out of Sterno; Sirens; The Last Schwartz, Gulf of Westchester, Fortune, Meta and Miniatures. Ms. Laufer's newest play, Leveling Up, was work-shopped at the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference (as was End Days) and is currently playing at Steppenwolf Theater Company after premiering at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Her plays have been produced at theatres around the country including Actor's Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival, Portland Stage, Florida Stage, Marin Theatre Company, and the Hippodrome Theatre with grants from The Edgerton Foundation and the NEA. Other short works include The Record, commissioned for Juilliard's Centennial celebration (published by Smith and Kraus in The Best 10 Minute Plays of 2005), Saturday, which premiered at the City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival, and The Prom, City Theatre's Short Cuts School Tour. Ms. Laufer is a graduate of the Juilliard School and a two-time recipient of the LeCompte du Nouy grant from the Lincoln Center Foundation. Her plays are published by Samuel French, and have been developed at PlayPenn, The Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference, Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Ojai Playwrights Conference, The Missoula Colony, The Cherry Lane Alternative, The Dramatists Guild Fellowship Program, New Georges, The Lark Play Development Center, Asolo Repertory Theatre and the Baltic Playwrights Conference. She's received the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, a Lilly Award and a National New Play Network rolling premiere and commission. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and is currently in her second year of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop.
Informed Consent was inspired by a news story broken by the New York Times. In 1990, members of the Havasupai Tribe who dwell deep in the Grand Canyon began giving DNA samples to a scientific team from Arizona State University in the hopes of discovering why they had such an extraordinarily high rate of diabetes among members of their tribe. But ASU used the samples not just for testing for diabetes, but for a range of other diseases as well as geographical origins, which conflicted directly with their creation story. The tribe sued for damages and for the return of their DNA samples and the rest, as we say, is history. In researching this story, and with a grant from The Sloan Foundation, both Ms. Laufer and Mr. Daniels visited the Havasupai in the Grand Canyon, as well as a laboratory in Philadelphia to discover how information is extracted from DNA samples.
The message of this play affects us all: how much information is too much. About our past. About our future. Every time we give a blood sample, participate in a medical trial or submit to medical evaluation we must give "informed consent" as part of the research process which is subject to guidelines set by the fields of medical and research ethics. How that information is utilized is at the center of this remarkable play.
This production has also benefited from the involvement of representatives from the Friends of Ganondagan, the area's historic Native American Center dedicated to the living culture of the Seneca people; the local branch of the Alzheimer's Association; and the medical community through the University of Rochester, one of the nation's top research institutions. This extraordinary case of the Havasupai is taught in nearly every medical ethics course in the country and Ms. Laufer's script has been made available to medical ethics classes at the University of Rochester. Both the playwright and the director will be taking part in the University of Rochester Medical Center's Medical Ethics Conference in March.
Geva is the first professional theatre in the country to open up the entire production process to a cross section of approximately 20 members of the community with an immersive experience called "The Cohort Club." Cohorts come from all parts of the region, backgrounds and professions and are privy to the minutiae of how a play is produced at Geva, including early director/designer collaboration, the official "meet and greet" of cast and production team, rehearsals, tech and more. Informed Consent marks the third time Geva has opened up the process of creating a production in this manner. The Cohorts for Informed Consent will have a rich experience indeed as the issues posed by the play concern us all, coupled with the input of the various organizations with which Geva has partnered on this production.
Informed Consent is directed by Sean Daniels and the design team includes Michael Raiford (scenic design), Amanda Doherty (costume design), Brian Lilienthal (lighting design), and Matt Callahan (sound design).
This production of Informed Consent is a co-production with Cleveland Play House, originating at Geva.
Informed Consent was originally commissioned by The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project. Additional funding for this production was also provided by the EST/Sloan Project. Informed Consent is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.
Co-Producers of Informed Consent are Five Star Bank and Nixon Peabody LLP. Honorary Producers are Dr. and Mrs. Sobel. WXXI and WYSL 1040 FM are the media sponsors.
Geva will be hosting a series of community-wide discussions and post-show conversations on the topics that Informed Consent tackles as part of Geva's "Theatre and Race: A Community Conversation," (January 23 - April 27). These community conversations are made possible with support from The New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and The Rochester Area Community Foundation. Information and a schedule of events for "Theatre and Race: A Community Conversation" can be found at www.gevatheatre.org.