December 21, 2011
|Crysta Vickers (Class of 2015) and Peter Ruiz (Class of 2015) perform at the Science Cafe.|
When Assistant Professor of Biology Susan Walsh designed her RCC, Biology in the Limelight: Science from a Playwright's Perspective, the goal was to marry the world of theatre with the world of science. “The thought was to have students read theatrical scripts pertaining to biology to put science in the context of a human experience with both ethical consequences and immediate relevance.”
So when she heard of the Science Café concept while attending a conference last year, the project seemed like a perfect fit for her course.
“Science Cafés are informal events designed to bring scientific discussion to a general audience,” explained Walsh, who, unpredictably, has a background in stage management. “These events should occur in a relaxed environment where people typically gather, such as a coffeehouse.”
Throughout a fifteen-week semester, students read and discussed nine plays that served as an introduction to the scientific themes presented in the course. They then chose The Twilight of the Golds by Jonathan Tolins to use for their Science Café. The students took the project and ran with it as they each took a role preparing a series of scenes to unveil at the College Park coffeehouse Downtown Credo.
A story about a fictional genetic testing that determines sexual orientation of an unborn child, The Twilight of the Golds presented a kaleidoscope of controversial issues for the class to sink their teeth into. “During this café, the students read a scene from the play, provided relevant scientific information and then fielded questions from the audience,” Walsh said.
“The Science Café was a wonderful experience,” said Stephanie Bester (Class of 2015), who played Phyllis Gold in the play. “To be honest, it was quite terrifying. I am a science major, so I usually do not act. I thought it was a great idea to allow us to experience plays in a new way by performing.”
Not surprising, theatre major Crysta Vickers (Class of 2015) absolutely loved the project. “The play we chose to discuss deals with such controversial and thought-provoking material; which made it all the more exciting to rehearse and perform at the café. After we had finished the performance and everyone in the audience had a clear understanding of the subject matter presented, it was very stimulating to discuss and answer questions from those who had come to participate.”
Walsh considered the project a success and would love to see future Science Cafés developed. But she admits that the process, while beneficial to both theater and biology students, is very time consuming. She’ll continue to weave the project into future manifestations of this course.
“The intent is to bring science to a general audience, to not only educate but to also get a good discussion going,” said Walsh. “There are things that I will do differently next time, but we definitely accomplished this goal and I’m excited to do it again down the road.”