Science and Theater in Action

This weekend, Lynn Watson and I held the very first Science and Theater workshop to train graduate students in the College of Engineering and Information Technology and Theater Students at UMBC to work together with middle school science teachers at Arbutus Middle School to develop theatrical performances that demonstrate scientific ideas.

The goal is to find the joy in science, learn to communicate it, and, perhaps, spark new theatrical ideas.

For the workshop, we all spent two and half days doing writing exercises, participating in vocal training, doing improv, and planning for the visits to the school.

After the first full day, I was sore and a bit concerned that this would all turn out. At the end of the workshop, we had a cadre of people full of joy and ready to collaborate. I don’t know what will happen in school, but I am beyond proud of the group. The instructors, students, teachers– every single person worked harder than I’ve ever seen and did things that can be a bit silly and require a good bit of courage. If you doubt me, write something that is deeply descriptive and personal and share it with people you have known for 1 day or do improv with people you’ve known for less than that.

I love science. I love exploring. But, between the heartbreak of experiments that turn out unexpectedly, the seemingly endless grant writing and wondering when you will get the papers completed– it can be frustrating. Thinking about the intersection of science and theater is not easy, but it is joyful. One of the parts of vocal exercises is learning how to create space in your body for your voice. At the end of the exercise, I took up space in a way that I hadn’t in a long time, and I had a newfound voice to go with it. The students, likewise, filled the space and had newfound voices (and a good bit of laughter). It was a pilot, a start, but I have my fingers and toes crossed. Hopefully, we can bring this joy to the classroom.

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