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Ensemble Studio Theatre Has Released Details for the 2020 FIRST LIGHT FESTIVAL

Ensemble Studio Theatre Has Released Details for the 2020 FIRST LIGHT FESTIVAL

Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) (William Carden, Artistic Director) and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Doron Weber, Vice-President, Programs) have announced details for the 2020 First Light Festival, part of the EST/Sloan Project to develop plays exploring science and technology.

The 2020 First Light Festival will run from January 16 - March 12, 2020. All presentations will be held at Ensemble Studio Theatre (545 W. 52nd St., 2nd Floor), except for What You Are Now by Sam Chanse, which will be presented by The Civilians at New Dramatists (424 W. 44th Street). All presentations are free. Reservations are encouraged and can be made at

Since 1998, the EST/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project has developed hundreds of new plays that question and broaden the view of science in the popular imagination. Each play's life onstage begins with the First Light Festival, an annual presentation of new readings, workshops, and productions. The 2020 First Light Festival includes public presentations of the following works-in-progress:

Offshore Clinical Trials

by Mona Pirnot

January 16 at 7pm

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.

What You Are Now

by Sam Chanse

Presented by The Civilians

January 17 at 3pm

The daughter of a trauma survivor, Pia is driven by the desire to help free her mother from paralyzing fear memories - that's why she became a neuroscientist. But the unexpected return of an Old Acquaintance triggers a storm of memory, forcing Pia to tangle with her own fears and paralysis, and pushing her to question deeply held beliefs about her own past. How can changing our memories about who we were then change who we are now?


by Mary Elizabeth Hamilton

January 28 at 7pm

Smart explores how much our identity is shaped by habits, and what happens when our possessions start responding to the information of our daily lives.


by Justice Hehir

Dramaturgy by Emilie Pass

January 30 at 7pm

FreePlay is a growing feminist sex toy company, popular for its deconstructed take on the dildo. It's a story about engineering, female friendships, dildoes, and the people who make them.

Galileo's Daughter

by Jessica Dickey

February 10 at 7pm

A playwright travels to Italy to discover the surviving letters of Galileo Galilei and his eldest daughter but finds herself facing an Inquisition of her own. Expanding across time, Galileo's Daughter is an exploration of faith, forgiveness, and the cost of heeding one's truth.

Have You Met Jane Goodall & Her Mother?

by Michael Walek

Directed by Linsay Firman

February 13 at 3pm & 7pm

The Tanzanian government allowed Jane Goodall to study chimpanzees in the wild under one condition - she must bring a chaperone, so she invited her mother.

Miss Mitchell

Book by Kristin Slaney

Music by The Lobbyists (Alex Grubbs & Tommy Crawford)

February 24 at 7pm

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.

with fellowship

by Amanda Keating

February 27 at 7pm

with fellowship bounces 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, with fellowship asks how history defines science, art, and faith.

Hello, World

by Margot Connolly

Directed by Alex Keegan

March 12 at 3pm

Two teams of teenage girls face off in a computer coding competition that could alter the course of their lives. The app they code needs to change the world for the better - but who decides which app and cause is most worthy? Which team deserves it more? Does anyone really win when young women are set against each other?


Created by Director Larissa Lury & Playwright L.M. Feldman

By Invitation Only

In 1959, before anyone had yet gone into space, 13 female pilots were selected and secretly tested as astronaut candidates; they were found to be ready, willing, and able to undergo the physical & mental rigors of spaceflight. But then NASA found out and canceled the testing. And so-in the height of the Cold War and the Space Race and the Civil Rights Movement-a Congressional Hearing was called to determine whether the U.S. should even invest in training women to be astronauts, suddenly pitting social progress against technological speed. M13 follows these 13 women, as they sacrifice nearly everything for a vital opportunity which seems within their grasp.

EST/Youngblood Science Brunch

March 1 at 12:30 & 3:30pm

Youngblood, EST's Obie Award-winning playwrights group, will continue to offer their monthly brunch series, where five Youngblood members present new short plays over food, mimosas, and Bloody Marys. On March 1 at 12:30 PM and 3:30 PM the EST/Youngblood Science brunch will ponder the great unsolvable questions of this world and the world beyond along with pancakes and a full brunch buffet.


The EST/Sloan Project (Graeme Gillis, Program Director; Linsay Firman, Associate Director) is designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling new theatrical works that explore the worlds of science, technology, and economics in order to challenge existing stereotypes of scientists and engineers in popular culture. Since its inception in 1998, the EST/Sloan Project has commissioned, developed, and produced the work of more than 300 playwrights, choreographers, composers, and theatre companies. Recent notable plays include Behind the Sheet by Charly Evon Simpson, Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath, Please Continue by Frank Basloe, and Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler.


The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan's program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.

Over nearly two decades, the Foundation's pioneering theater program, begun with a 1997 grant to Ensemble Studio Theatre for Arthur Giron's play about the Wright Brothers, Flight, has helped usher in the science play as a regular part of the theater canon. Commissioning close to 20 new plays each year through its two flagship partners, EST and Manhattan Theatre Club-and working with the National Theater in London and Playwrights Horizons in New York, among others-the Foundation has made "a Sloan" a coveted commission for any playwright embarking on a new play with a science and technology theme or character. Beginning with such renowned science plays as Proof, Copenhagen and Alan Alda's QED, more recent grants have supported Bess Wohl's Continuity, directed by 2019 Tony winner Rachel Chavkin; Charly Evon Simpson's New York Times Critic's Pick Behind the Sheet; Chiara Atik's Bump; Lucy Kirkwood's Mosquitoes; Leigh Fondakowski's Spill; Nick Payne's Constellations, a Broadway hit starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson; Nell Benjamin's The Explorer's Club; Lucas Hnath's Isaac's Eye and Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51, a 2015 prize-winner in London's West End starring Nicole Kidman.

Sloan also has a nationwide film program that includes support of six film schools, screenplay development programs with The Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, SFFILM, Film Independent, the Black List, the Athena Film Festival, and the North Fork TV Festival, and has helped develop and distribute over 25 feature films including To Dust, The Sound of Silence, The Catcher Was a Spy, The Imitation Game, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Operator, and Experimenter. The Foundation has also supported theatrical documentaries such as Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Particle Fever, and Jacques Perrin's Oceans. The Foundation's book program includes early support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the best-selling book which became the Oscar-nominated, SFFILM Sloan Science in Cinema Prize-winning film. For more information visit or follow @SloanPublic on Twitter.

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