Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces 2020-21 EST/Sloan Project Commissions

By: May. 27, 2020
Ensemble Studio Theatre Announces 2020-21 EST/Sloan Project Commissions

Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation along with the EST/Sloan Project, have announced new EST/Sloan commissions for the 2020-2021 season.

EST is continuing 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 2020/21 Sloan Commission recipients and plays are Bonnie Antosh (Lemuria); Jake Brasch (What?); Noah Brody & Marshall Hagins (Love Antics and Dances); AJ Clauss (Henry Makes a Bible); Nelson Diaz-Marcano (Las Boqinqueñas); Gracie Gardner (Poison); Krista Knight (UrbanXx); Jacob Marx-Rice (Binding Energy); Charissa Menefee (Iowa Enemy); Julian Mesri (A Heart in Pieces (Corazón Despedezado)); Amanda Quaid (Weathergirl); Phaedra Michelle Scott (Good Hair) and Ken Urban & Steve Cosson (The Moderate).

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 2020/21 season, grants were awarded to Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Boulder, CO)-Backwards Forwards Back by Jacqueline Goldfinger; The Hangar Theatre (Ithaca, NY)-The Nature of Things by Michael Barakiva; Media Art Xploration (MAX) (Nationwide)-We Are Your Robots by Ethan Lipton; and Syracuse Stage (Syracuse, NY)-Commanding Space: The Rise of Annie Easley and the Centaur Rocket by Stephanie Leary.

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-two 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.

Details of the commissioned projects, artists, and theatres are below.


Bonnie Antosh - Lemuria

Professor Annabelle Katz-Carver, the greatest primatologist since Jane Goodall, runs her elite research lab as a strict matriarchy. After grooming potential successors for decades, she's finally ready to choose an heir - but in the animal kingdom and in our own, how does a queen pass the crown on to another queen? Lemuria is an inheritance drama about dominance, queer Southern scientists, academic lineage, sex and - yes - lemurs.

Jake Brasch - What?

A lost queer neurotic mess of a twenty-something moves home to get sober and finds solace in his four quirky grandparents. When three of the four are swiftly diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, he embarks on a ridiculous mission to prolong their lucidity. As he wrestles with widespread misconceptions about Alzheimer's prevention, the truth about what we can do to prepare ourselves for the disease and the gaps in our current understanding, he inadvertently creates a road map for his own recovery.

Noah Brody & Marshall Hagins - Love Antics and Dances

Insecure but brilliant biologist Samantha is increasingly confident that the male-centric, chest-thumping theory "survival of the fittest" is not the only engine driving the process of evolution. Will Samantha find the courage to speak up and risk her scientific career to promote a radical new theory: females' pursuit of their own pleasure is not only natural, it's the second great engine of evolution? Love Antics and Dances is a musical at the intersection of science and feminist thought suggesting that sexual autonomy and freedom of choice create diversity and beauty in the world.

AJ Clauss - Henry Makes a Bible

Henry Makes a Bible explores the genesis of the world's most famous medical textbook-Gray's Anatomy-created by two college students in Victorian London: Henry and Henry. As layers of history are anatomized and dissected, we learn the body never lies, even if the author does. A story of friendship, ambition and the price of flesh.

Nelson Diaz-Marcano - Las Boqinqueñas

The birth control pill has been hailed as a modern miracle of medical science that helped women attain long-denied liberties previously thought impossible to achieve. But, for those liberties to manifest, there were other women who were forced to give up more than just their liberties. Las Boqinqueñas is the story of the first birth control pill mass trial, the Puerto Rican women that served as subjects, and the tribute they became for the miracle to occur.

Gracie Gardner - Poison

Poison is a play about feeling helpless and a woman who tries to make a difference using the worst methods available to her.

Krista Knight - UrbanXx

In UrbanXx, three urban planners' unique gender performances shape competing urban landscapes. This story of the cities women build examines a woman's place and the places woman creates.

Jacob Marx-Rice - Binding Energy

When Grace decides to create a study group to take the AP Physics test, the group quickly discovers that physics is the least of their problems. Will's severe depression, Sam's eating disorder, Maya's desperate attempts to find meaning in life and Claire's obsession with achievement all come crashing in on each other as these four damaged souls fight to survive the emotional hurricane that is being seventeen while teaching themselves Electromagnetism. And when Will attempts to kiss Maya (again), the group has to make a decision about what they are willing to sacrifice and who they want to be.

Charissa Menefee - Iowa Enemy

In this reimagining of Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, the expansion of a pork processing plant promises to create jobs and revitalize the economy of a small Iowa town. The local well-water specialist, a fourth-generation Iowa woman, discovers that nitrates and bacteria previously thought to be present only in rivers are now detectable in private wells. When she reports her findings to the town council, revealing her plan to share her research with an environmental watchdog group, she and the townspeople face off, divided by what seems to be an impossible choice between their future livelihoods and protecting their environment.

Julian Mesri - A Heart in Pieces (Corazón Despedezado)

A Heart in Pieces (Corazón Despedezado) is a new bio-musical about Dr. René Favaloro, an Argentine surgeon who was essential in the development of coronary bypass surgery. An original score inspired by Argentine rock and folclore music gives voice to this tragic figure, who gave his life to make medicine and health accessible to the people. Beginning with his work as a country doctor, A Heart in Pieces follows Favaloro's life and career, from his work at the Cleveland Clinic in the 1960s where he made his major innovations in the field of heart surgery, to the creation of his medical research and education foundation in Buenos Aires, to his ultimate suicide by gunshot to the heart in the midst of Argentina's financial crisis.

Amanda Quaid - Weathergirl

America, 1854. Industry is on the rise, along with anxiety about its impact on air quality. Once a topic of dull, polite small talk, the weather suddenly takes on a significance nobody saw coming. In this world, amateur scientist Eunice Foote is the first person to discover the Greenhouse Effect. Weathergirl tells the story of this great forgotten woman of climate science, who glimpsed the future in a jar of CO2 - and whose work was lost for over a century.

Phaedra Michelle Scott - Good Hair

Good Hair follows three women through three different time periods, exploring the science of black hair. Florence is a high schooler in 2017 whose hair is being questioned for its 'professionalism,' Sarah Breedlove is on the cusp of a major discovery that can change black women's lives forever at the turn of the 20th century, and Eliza is a slave to the wealthy family who craves mobility from her current station. Ultimately, they each question themselves asking the question: does the cost of perceived beauty outweigh the proof of science?

Ken Urban & Steve Cosson - The Moderate

Frank evaluates the videos and photos uploaded on the world's largest social media site. What Frank sees, he can't un-see, but he soon realizes he has the power to change the world. Based on interviews with scientists, researchers and policymakers, The Moderate dramatizes the hidden human cost of the internet and imagines a future when a free exchange of knowledge and information is possible again.


Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company (Boulder, CO): Backwards Forwards Back by Jacqueline Goldfinger

Drawing on current research on neuroplasticity and concerns over how much we can change the brain post-trauma, and how much we should, Backwards Forwards Back explores issues surrounding neuroscience and neuroplasticity through two doctors who are using Virtual Reality Therapy to treat soldiers' PTSD at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Philadelphia, acknowledging the reality that the scientific process, and applying technological advances and research, is often a one-step forwards, two steps back process.

The Hangar Theatre (Ithaca, NY): The Nature of Things by Michael Barakiva

loves life. And he loves science. He loves them so much, in fact, he's decided to write a poem about them, a poem that will win him not only win him a place at the Academy, but also the heart of a certain patrician boy. The Nature of Things is inspired by De Rerum Natura, the first century BC epic that anticipates atomism, whose re-discovery in 15th century AD is considered the triggering event for the European Renaissance.

Media Art Xploration (MAX): We Are Your Robots by Ethan Lipton

Ethan and his bandmates are robots. They don't act like the robots of sci-fi and pop culture; they act like themselves - fleshy, flawed, anxious human beings. In fact, the only real specialty they offer as robots is that they are lifelike, but they wonder: "Why are we here?". We Are Your Robots explores what makes consciousness tick, inquiring about the nature of existence, comparing and contrasting the robot existence with that of a human - all in an effort to determine where the human superiority complex comes from. In fact, who is really alive?

Syracuse Stage (Syracuse, NY): Commanding Space: The Rise of Annie Easley and the Centaur Rocket by Stephanie Leary

Commanding Space: The Rise of Annie Easley and the Centaur Rocket celebrates the life and achievements of Annie Easley, who, beginning in 1955, became one of the first human computers to work for NACA -National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. She was also one of only four African Americans employed by NACA - which later became NASA - and became a leading member of the team that developed software for the Centaur rocket in the early 1960s. Joann Yarrow will serve as dramaturg.

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