Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces Sloan Project Commissions

Learn more about the lineup here!

By: Feb. 09, 2023
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Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces Sloan Project Commissions

Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have announced new EST/Sloan Project commissions for the 2022-2023 season.

EST will continue their partnership with the Sloan Foundation through the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project (Graeme Gillis, Program Director, Linsay Firman, Associate Program Director). Started in 1998, the EST/Sloan Project 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.

The 2022/23 Sloan Commission recipients and plays are Taylor A. Blackman (To Infinity,), Jake Brasch (Why The Sun Goes Down), Meghan Brown (BIGFOOT), Cayenne Douglass (Girl Talk), Allyson Dwyer (Extraordinary Machine), Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin (Torque Bitch), Amy Jo Jackson (Grace/Bliss), Victor Lesniewski (Untitled Big Data Play), Matthew Paul Olmos (monk seal murder to begin with), SEVAN (Sameera's Shadow), Vern Thiessen (Scent).

Taylor A. Blackman - To Infinity

Meet the "Devale family". Roberta & Destin Devale to be exact. Mother and Son. Both scientists. One contingent on humanity staying and fixing earth. The other contingent on humanity relocating to Mars for a new chance at life. And to top it off - it's the thanksgiving holiday. To Infinity, is a story about the choices and decisions we make- and the after-effects that come with them.

Jake Brasch - Why The Sun Goes Down

Charlie is put under for a routine surgery and wakes up five days later in an Elmo costume at a diner in the East Village. As he attempts to piece together what happened, he slams up against the miraculous, terrifying, and mysterious beast that is General Anesthesia. Desperate for answers, he embarks on a musical journey into his subconscious.

Meghan Brown - BIGFOOT

It's been the worst year of disgraced physicist Holly Auburn's life, and now Bigfoot (who does not exist) is standing in her conspiracy theorist sister's off-the-grid living room. Fantastic. To survive the night, Holly must confront family secrets, ancient rivalries, and the most terrifying force of all: the power of a good story.

Cayenne Douglass - Girl Talk

In 1953 Marie Tharp, a geophysicist and cartologist, makes a revolutionary discovery only for it to be dismissed by co-worker Bruce Heezen as "girl talk". Eventually, 'substantiated' by a male scientist, Heezen repairs his rift with Marie, and an unconventional relationship forms between them, for just like the scars of the ocean floor, division has the power to reveal the truth of who we are.

Allyson Dwyer - Extraordinary Machine

From the days of mailing lists and message boards to the now seamless world of iPhones and social media, Extraordinary Machine is an intimate three-act examination of computer programmer and activist Aaron Swartz's relationship with technology, and how his story mirrors the arc, and ideals, of the Internet.

Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin - Torque Bitch

First-generation Cuban American Sara, second-generation Chinese American Jenelle, and newly immigrated German Bean want - nay, need - to win the regional science fair, but find a formidable foe/distraction in Science Boy, a genius-level classmate who's also pretty cute. This play explores non-men embarking on high school physics and the relationship between science and American citizenship.

Amy Jo Jackson - Grace/Bliss

Hoping to go "the full Havisham" in private following a slew of disappointments, Meg retreats to her grandmother's old house, where she unearths a correspondence between two early 20th Century botanists. The past and the present begin to blend as Meg becomes fixated on their friendship and the legacy they left behind.

Victor Lesniewski - Untitled Big Data Play

Set in the 1970s, the play examines the humble origins of data collection, focusing on the engineering behind databases and data anonymization techniques, and draws a direct line to the issues prevalent with Big Data today.

Matthew Paul Olmos - monk seal murder to begin with

On an undisclosed island, the escalation of accusations and prejudices escalate over who's been killing monk seals and why. At the center of it all, questions of what indigenous truly means on this small island, and will the polarization between human beings overshadow these animals being so innocently killed?

SEVAN - Sameera's Shadow

After losing her mother, Egyptian-Muslim scientist Sameera Moussa focuses on a cure for cancer. But her work in nuclear science leads to a breakthrough formula that births the atom bomb. Lauded and courted by America, she must decide between her Atomic Energy for Peace humanitarian efforts and the allure of a life-changing career invitation. A pioneer in her field, she is now completely forgotten.

Vern Thiessen - Scent

A battle royale between two French perfumers during WWII rages as the Nazis invade Paris. But is creating scent an Art? Or is it Chemistry? Who will extinguish the smell of death and destruction that lingers in the nostrils of the war weary population?

In addition to awarding artist commissions, the EST/Sloan Project also offers grants to regional theaters through the EST/Sloan Project's National Partnership for New Plays, which supports theaters nationwide who wish to sponsor a local project focused on science and technology, either by commissioning a new script or developing an existing piece. For the 2022/23 season, grants were awarded to Hartford Stage (Hartford, CT) for Her Math Play by Christina Pumariega and Central Square Theater (Cambridge, MA) for Beyond Words by Laura Maria Censabella.

Christina Pumariega - Her Math Play

JoAnne loves Math like a person. But it's the very language her artist daughter Sam fails to speak. Inspired by the author's math professor mom, Her Math Play is a laugh out loud love letter to mothers, daughters, latent feminism and Math told in equations and whale song.

Laura Maria Censabella - Beyond Words

Central Square Theater's Catalyst Collaborative@MIT science/theater project will collaborate with playwright Laura Maria Censabella on workshopping the dynamics of performance style and narrative in Beyond Words, an offbeat and unexpected 30-year love story between scientist and research subject in which Dr. Irene Pepperberg studies the cognitive and communicative abilities of Grey parrots.

The partnership between EST and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is the creative engine behind hundreds of new American plays that challenge and broaden the public's understanding of science and technology and their impact in our lives. Plays from the EST/Sloan Project are produced again and again across the country. This begins at EST's home base in Hell's Kitchen in New York, over fifty years a crucial platform for new and unheard voices in the American theatre. For the past twenty-five years, this reputation has been enhanced by the critically acclaimed productions presented on the theatre's Mainstage every season under the banner of the EST/Sloan Project.

Beyond New York, the program has a nationwide reach. It supports development and production of new plays in theatres across the country through a combination of seed grants and production incentives. These initiatives provide an extended life for EST/Sloan plays in subsequent regional productions, and the seed grants provide a broader base of artistic opportunity for communities outside of New York, allowing the program to cast a wider net for new work.