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Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces 2019-20 EST/Sloan Project Commissions

Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces 2019-20 EST/Sloan Project Commissions

Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Doron Weber, Vice-President, Programs) along with the EST/Sloan Project, are pleased to announce new EST/Sloan commissions for the 2019-2020 season.

EST is proud to continue their partnership with the Sloan Foundation through the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project. 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 Sloan Commission 2019/20 recipients and plays are Stephen Brown (The Informants); Cusi Cram (Amaru); Susan Eve Haar (Genetic Perfection); Justice Hehir (FreePlay); Amanda Keating (with fellowship); Mona Pirnot (Offshore Clinical Trials); Kristin Slaney with The Lobbyists (Tommy Crawford & Alex Grubbs) (Miss Mitchell); Judy Tate (Blood Feud); Melisa Tien (Untitled); and Anna Ziegler & Matt Schatz (The Honoree).

Stephen Brown-The Informants

East Germany during the 1970s Cold War. Heinz and Rolf are two scientists developing camera lenses at the world-famous ZEISS company when the oppressive Stasi (state secret police) contracts them to develop a new type of lens that allows its user to take pictures in the dark...infrared. And to make sure that the scientists do a good job, the Stasi install one of their informants in the lab with them. What do you do when the technology you're developing will lead to the further oppression of your country?

Cusi Cram-Amaru

In the small indigenous village of Amaru in rural Bolivia, people live well into their 90's in full possession of their mental faculties. An American botanist, working for a pharmaceutical company believes a compound in the local tea is responsible for the community's health and wants to begin the process of turning the tea into a drug that could potentially curb memory loss. She battles her own conscience and a passionate native advocate from the community, gradually becoming aware that her quest to help the larger world could ultimately destroy the fabric of this unique and thriving community.

Susan Eve Haar-Genetic Perfection

Genetic Perfection investigates the implications of gene alteration or editing and the implications of the choices that new technologies might offer a family. What kind of "different" would one choose to eradicate in the next generation?

Justice Hehir-FreePlay

FreePlay is a growing feminist sex toy company, popular in part due to its deconstructed take on the modern dildo, whose founders pride themselves on their non-phallo-centric aesthetic. Run by best friends since college, engineer Amy and sculptor Sara, the Brooklyn-based business is intimate and casual, their office shared by environmentalist artist (and ulcerative colitis activist) Travis, and their devoted intern, Emma. As Amy starts IVF and Sara begins fantasizing about Travis, the mid-thirties equilibrium the pair thought they had reached begins to crumble. What ensues is a story about engineering, the painful intimacy of female friendships, dildoes, and the people who make them. Emilie Pass will serve as dramaturg for the piece.

Amanda Keating-with fellowship

with fellowship bounces back and forth through time, from a present-day German lab where a team of women scientists study the fossilized dental plaque of medieval monastics to a German scriptorium in the 11th century where a nameless nun crafts painstakingly beautiful illuminated manuscripts. A play about loneliness and loss across the bounds of time, with fellowship asks how history defines science, art, and faith, and what women's work looks like when everyone you love is dead.

Mona Pirnot-Offshore Clinical Trials

On the porch of a rented beach house in the Caribbean, subjects come and go, over the course of several months, to take part in a trial testing the therapeutic value of one doctor's homemade herpes vaccine.

Kristin Slaney, with The Lobbyists (Alex Grubbs & Tommy Crawford)-Miss Mitchell

Miss Mitchell is a musical inspired by the life of Maria Mitchell, the first female professional astronomer in America, and an influential figure in women's education on the island of Nantucket.

Judy Tate-Blood Feud

A well-known black surgeon, inventor of the blood bank and the bloodmobile, Charles Drew, dies in a tragic accident driving down south in Jim Crow America. It's widely believed that the man who saved so many lives with his pioneering techniques to store blood died because he was denied a blood transfusion-the very technique he brought into the modern age through the Red Cross. Is it true? Why do so many believe it? And who was Charles Drew, the man? Blood Feud explores Dr. Drew's extraordinary intellect, athleticism and will-power, and the Eugenicist world into which he was born-where even the Red Cross is infected with America's primary disease, racism.

Melissa Tien-Untitled

Two strong-willed women from vastly different backgrounds grapple with sexism, self-doubt, and each other's egos when they join forces to develop the world's first menstruation-tracking app.

Anna Ziegler & Matt Schatz-The Honoree

Does one need to be a good person to be a good scientist? Can one ever reconcile groundbreaking achievement with tragic personal flaws? When a group of people from various fields and walks of life gather to celebrate the 60th birthday of the most prominent scientist in the world they are forced to grapple with these questions and more-especially when it turns out she's even more complicated than anyone realized.

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 existent piece. For the 2019/20 season, grants were awarded to Geva Theatre Center (Rochester, NY)- What Looks Like Pretty by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder; The Civilians (Brooklyn, NY)- What You Are Now by Sam Chanse; and HB Playwrights Studio (New York, NY)- The Secret Life of Seaweed by Julie McKee.

Sam Chanse-What You Are Now

Pia has a professional interest in fear and memory; they constitute the focus of her research as a not-entirely-fulfilled neuroscience post-doc. But the return of an Old Acquaintance forces her to confront her own family's history and grapple with the collective trauma of a past that is relentlessly, ruthlessly tangled up with the present.

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder-What Looks Like Pretty

In 1963 in a lab at Kodak Park, Mr. Walters and his younger colleague Charlie are putting the finishing touches to the newest color film technology. When Gloria, a new African American employee at Kodak, questions the authenticity of color in the film, the success of the whole project is at stake. Innovation, revolution, commercialism and perception are tested in this historical fiction inspired by the real science of color film evolution. Co-Commissioned with Geva Theatre Center.

Julie McKee-The Secret Life of Seaweed

New Zealand, 1941. Under threat of Japanese invasion, two women are sent on a mission in search of Pterocladia Lucida, a simple seaweed needed to aid the war effort.

Writers interested in EST/Sloan Project commissions are invited to learn more at the annual Cultivation Event on Thursday, December 12, 2019 at EST (545 W 52nd Street). The event is free, and any playwright interested in developing a play about science or technology is encouraged to attend for a free-wheeling, far-ranging discussion between scientists and playwrights about science, storytelling, and what makes plays work. More information is available at

The partnership between the 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, New York, for fifty years a crucial platform for new and unheard voices in the American theatre. Over the past twenty-one 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.

EST/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project's annual First Light Festival, featuring readings and workshops of new science-themed plays commissioned and developed through the Project, will take place in February-April 2020.

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