Author: Emma Weitkamp, UWE, United Kingdom
Co-authors: Mário Montenegro, Simon Parry
Format: Roundtable discussion
Science and theatre may have been in dialogue since ancient times, but interest from the science communication community increased sharply following the success of Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen (1998). Much of the interest in theatre exploring scientists or scientific themes has come from disciplines traditionally associated with theatre, such as literary studies or applied theatre. This round table seeks to explore the field from the distinct perspective of science communication scholarship, specifically encompassing theatrical productions which address science communication objectives. We consider what science-theatre has to offer those working in science communication and some of the reasons that practitioners have for combining science and theatre in their work. We invite the audience to consider both the opportunities and challenges presented when bringing together science and theatre in a science communication context. The panellists are each invited to present a short provocation drawing from their experience as researchers and practitioners in this area, offering insights to those interested in including science-theatre within their research or practice. Initial questions from the chair will be used to initiate a discussion between the panellists, after which we will invite questions from the audience.
Emma Weitkamp will present findings from a global survey of science-theatre practitioners, exploring the diversity of professionals involved, who range from actors to historians, ethicists, scientists and science communicators, and their motivations for working with science and theatre, which comprise pragmatic, personal and fundamental goals. Her short provocation will raise questions about the roles and values of science-theatre and addressing the benefits and challenges practitioners see to combining these two grammars. Emma is co-author (with Carla Almeida) of Science & Theatre: Communicating Science and Technology with Performing Arts (Emerald Publishing). Her research explores the intersections of science and arts, including performative and visual media.
Mário Montenegro will focus on the collaborative dramaturgical work with scientists, which he has been developing with Marionet theatre company, at the University of Coimbra. From an audience’s perspective, the resulting theatre plays are gateways to the hidden functioning of the scientific endeavour, revealing the structure and work relationships behind scientific development. From the participant scientists’ perspectives, this kind of work expands their communication and interrelationship abilities, and constitutes a forum where they talk publicly about matters related to their profession that they might not state elsewhere. As a theatre director, actor, playwright, professor of Performance and Theatre Studies at the University of Coimbra and senior researcher at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Mario will draw on a range of practice perspectives. He is the Artistic Director of Marionet (www.marioneteatro.com), a theatre company focused on the interplay between theatre and science.
Simon Parry draws our attention specifically to theatre engaging with health themes. He will discuss implications for contemporary theatre and performance practices of the increasing politicisation of health in the UK and elsewhere. He will explore case studies of theatre companies and reflect on how they have attempted to incorporate health themes and expertise in their programming and producing processes. Simon is Senior Lecturer in Drama and Arts Management at the University of Manchester. His research explores the politics and aesthetics of creative practice at the intersection of science, health and performance. He is the author of Science in performance: theatre and the politics of engagement (Manchester: MUP, 2020) and is currently co-editing a new Routledge Companion to Performance and Science with Adele Senior and Paul Johnson.