Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Announce 2012 New Play Commissions

 The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Science and Technology Project awarded commission grants today for new plays to ten playwrights and two theatre companies to develop new works exploring science and technology.  

This year's recipients including playwrights Leigh Fondakowski (The Laramie Project) and Naveen Choudhury and theatre companies Exit Pursued By A Bear (These Seven Sicknesses) and Lyrebird Theater Company.  Each commission will tackle topics ranging from the Gulf Coast oil spill, to the race to improve the Netflix algorithm or to the invention of Chiclets. 
Now in its 14th year, the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project currently has commissions for some 200 projects for development with grants ranging from $500 to $20,000.  The program has awarded more than $1.2 million dollars in grants, with over 75 productions nationwide.
This year’s complete list of commission recipients:  


France-Luce Benson
J. Holtham
Alex Borinsky 
Naveen Choudhury
Meghan Deans
Leigh Fondakowski
Lucas Kavner
Tom Rowan
Daniel Reitz
Emily Chadick Weiss

                 Theatre Companies

Exit, Pursued By A Bear
Lyrebird Theater Co.
The 14th Annual First Light Festival of 
New Plays of Science & Technology Continues

            The annual festival of new plays about science and technology is underway at the Ensemble Studio Theatre now through April 28.  Playwrights of note include Academy Award nominee Beau Willimon (Farragut North, Spirit Control); Laura Jacqmin (Wasserstein, Humana Awards); and Keith Reddin (Black Snow). 
            Later this spring, the EST/Sloan Mainstage will present the world premiere of Headstrong by Patrick Link, directed by Ensemble Studio Theatre Artistic Director William Carden.  A workshop staging of The Unusual Love Life of Bedbugs and Other Creatures by Cori Thomas is scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, April 26, 27 and 28, at 7:00pm with a Saturday matinee April 28 at 2:00pm.
            All performances at the Ensemble Studio Theatre: 549 West 52nd Street at 11th Avenue.
            First Light Festival readings are a suggested $10 donation.  Reservations are a great idea and can be made atwww.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/134 or by calling 866-811-4111.

            The 14th Annual First Light Festival March schedule of staged readings are:
Monday, March 19, at 7:00pm

         Before You Ruin It by Laura Jacqmin
Can one Player save the most influential computer game company of the 1980s from certain doom? Matching wits against feuding founders, a changing adventure game marketplace  and a demonic CEO, one man attempts to rout disaster and outlast the competition.  This play is a theatrical text adventure based on the fall of Infocom. 
Friday, March 23, at 7:00pm

         Out of Orbit by Jennifer Maisel
Sara lives on Mars time, spearheading the Mars Rover Expedition, visiting a planet she cannot touch.  Her teenage daughter Lis, on earth time, falls under the spell of the cyber-cypher Edgar2330.  This play explores an exploring woman and a longing-to-be-explored girl tryingto find each other in our increasingly disconnected universe. 
Sunday, March 2, at 3:00pm

         Kasimov by Beau Willimon
In 1997, a legendary chess master travels to New York to play the supercomputer created solely to defeat him. 
Monday, March 26, at 7:00pm

         Some Brighter Distance by Keith Reddin
After World War II, Operation Paperclip secretly enlisted former Nazi scientists to help in the space race with the Soviets.  After leaving Germany, Arthur Rudolph played a crucial role for decades in U.S. missile development . . . until America didn’t want him anymore.  This is a story of mixed allegiances and strange bedfellows in 20th-century science.
Thursday, March 29, at 7:00pm

         Fast Company by Carla Ching
A famous grifter, Mable Kwan, taught her sons the long con. One became a magician; another, a sports writer.  Blue, the youngest and the only girl, studies game theory and may be the best con artist in the family.  When the estranged trio is called home with a small fortune at stake, who will con whom in the end? 
The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project:  Fourteen years of acclaimed productions
            The Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project hopes that many of the works presented during the First Light Festival will, through the Project’s rigorous development process, eventually become candidates for a full month long run as Mainstage Productions.  The upcoming Mainstage Production of Headstrong continues a tradition that began in 1998 and continued last season with Anna Ziegler’s acclaimed play, Photograph 51, about the life and work of British scientist Rosalind Franklin and her role in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  “A play that glows with intelligence and humanity,” raved Backstage. “Compelling theatre.”  A return performance of Photograph 51 for the 2011 World Science Festival and a panel discussion with three of the scientists portrayed was the sold-out hit of the festival.  
            In previous years the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Sloan Project has dramatized the travails of two Russian scientists charged with embalming Lenin’s corpse ( Lenin’s Embalmers, 2010), the conflict of two generations of black scientists ( Relativity, 2006), a solipsistic anthropologist coping with mothering an autistic child ( Lucy, 2008), the last days of a tragically irradiated nuclear physicist (Louis Slotin Sonata, 2001) and the romantic resonance discoverable in string theory (String Fever, 2003), among other subjects. In the spring of 2009, Deb Laufer’s End Days brought together the Rapture and Stephen Hawking for what Backstage called “a serious comedy, and the best new play I’ve seen in a long time. Ferociously good.” In 2007 David Zellnik’s Serendib investigated how the dynamics of a group of primate field researchers mirrored the closely observed behavior of a troop of Sri Lankan temple monkeys. (“A great play” – NPR) The complete roster of mainstage productions follows.  The range of scientific topics explored has been truly impressive: 
Season      Featured Play
1997-98    Flight by Arthur Giron (Wright Brothers)
1998–99   Tesla’s Letters by Jeffrey Stanley (physics and engineering)
1999-00   Moving Bodies by Arthur Giron (Richard Feynman – physics)
2000-01    Louis Slotin Sonata by Paul Mullin (Los Alamos Atom Project)
2001-02    Secret Order by Bob Clyman (cancer research)
2002-03    String Fever by Jacqueline Reingold (physics)
2003-04    Tooth and Claw by Michael Hollinger (Galapagos/evolution/biology)
2004-05    Luminescence Dating by Carey Perloff (archaeology)
2005-06    Relativity by Cassandra Medley (melanin research)
2006-07    Serendib by David Zellnik (evolution/genetics/field research)
2007-08   Lucy by Damien Atkins (autism/anthropology)
2008-09    End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer (cosmology & religion)
2009=10    Lenin’s Embalmers by Vern Thiessen (science of embalming)
2010-11     Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler (women in science/discovery of double helix)

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