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University group creates theatre piece about Darwin


   

Charles Darwin Charles Darwin

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 30, 2009 – "Living Darwin," an original theatrical production, will debut at Virginia Tech this fall. The Theatre Workshop in Science, Technology, and Society and the Department of Theatre and Cinema developed the play, which addresses the theories of Charles Darwin.

The premiere performances of Living Darwin, which are free and open to the public, will be held Oct. 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Studio Theatre.

The play is the outcome of a team of experts in science and technology working alongside theatre arts practitioners in an innovative, multidisciplinary workshop model. Creative directors for Living Darwin are Ann Kilkelly and Robert H. Leonard, professors in the Department of Theatre and Cinema in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and Carol Burch-Brown, professor of Art and Humanities in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Darwin’s theories continue to profoundly impact contemporary understandings of the natural world, as well as the place of humans within it. Living Darwin brings to life his writings and thought -- as well as the popular and scientific interpretations, refutations, and expansions that have followed.

“Regardless of one’s understanding or belief in evolutionary theory, Living Darwin examines how personal identity and interactions with others are shaped by stories, concepts, and metaphors that are linked to evolutionary thought,” said Kilkelly.

Development of the play began in July of 2008 with the first in a series of workshops that included biologists, ecologists, feminists, historians, and professional vocal and movement specialists. Theatre Workshop in Science, Technology, and Society, a project of the Department of Science and Technology in Society, is co-directed by Saul Halfon, associate professor in science and technology in society, and Jane Lehr, an alumna of the program who is now a faculty member at California Polytechnic State University. Cora Olson, a doctoral student in science and technology studies, is the 2008-10 Theatre Workshop in Science, Technology, and Society graduate research associate.

Guest artist Celeste Miller, an Atlanta-based dancer and choreographer, conducted one of the workshops for the theatre workshop. Miller will be performing in Living Darwin as “Darwin’s Gesture.” Leonard, who portrays Darwin, said, “The script asks for creative dialogue between verbal text and movement.”

The play will be held in conjunction with Virginia Tech’s emphasis on Darwin-related events celebrating the 200th anniversary of the controversial author’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his publication On the Origin of Species. Other activities include

  • Choices and Challenges, which is an award-winning public forum series that explores the social and ethical dimensions of science and technology through dialogue among professional and lay members of the university and regional communities. This year’s topic is “Animal Minds.”
  • An exhibition and web-streamed, Internet 2.0 performance called “Singing Darwin: A New Media Exhibition on the 150th Anniversary of the Publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species which is an original, new-media project that engages a network of artists, scientists, and scholars. Directed and produced by Burch-Brown, the exhibition will be at the Armory Gallery throughout November, culminating in a 24-hour live and cyber event from Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. to Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. coinciding with the actual publication date of On the Origin of the Species.
  • "Celebration of Darwin: a Conference on Darwin's Origin," which will be held on Nov. 4 at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. Darwin scholars Philip Kitcher, Frank Sulloway, and Robert Richards are the featured speakers in the morning with three parallel sessions of submitted papers in the afternoon. There is a registration fee; visit the conference online for details.

Free parking is available in the Squires Lot, located at the corner of College Avenue and Otey Street, or the Shultz Hall Lot, located off Alumni Drive near the North Main Street campus entrance. Find more parking information online or call (540) 231-3200.