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Development of a Science-Theater collaborative platform

Science and technology have transformed our lives and will disrupt and reshape jobs within our community. Yet, from genetic modifications to quantum computing, science remains enigmatic to the public. In recognition of this problem, the National Science Foundation has required every scientific proposal to incorporate elements of outreach. One way to reach wider communities is live theater. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation supports production of plays about science. The creation of plays about science, however, remain challenging because it requires non-traditional, cross-disciplinary collaborations too elaborate for junior investigators or emerging playwrights.
Our project will develop a collaborative model that draws on the expertise of research faculty in Science, Theater and the Center for Health Ethics, Arts, and Humanities. We will test this approach by developing a play about retroviruses to be performed at the International Retrovirology Conference at Snowbird Utah in September of 2023. Our team has identified a local playwright, Rachel Bublitz, and director, Assistant Professor Alexandra Harbold (Theatre), who, will collaborate with Dr Anna Skalka (Fox Chase Medical Center in Philadelphia), Dr Saffarian’s lab, and health sciences faculty to explore the golden age of molecular biology and the ethical and social implications of retroviral research. This process will be documented to serve as a model for future investigators.
Opportunities for extramural funding include:
1- Allowing junior faculty to propose science-theater collaborations as outreach mechanisms in their NSF proposals. This retroviruses play will be directly incorporated into the next NSF proposal from Dr Saffarian’s lab.
2- Allowing playwrights to develop plays with the potential to seek additional development and production support from arts, cultural and science education foundations.


College of Science
Physics and Astronomy
Project Owner

SVP Education Unit
Medical Ethics

College of Fine Arts
Theatre Department

Project Info

Funded Project Amount

Theater, Science, Outreach, Retroviruses, HIV, Ethics

Project Status
Funded 2023
Last Updated: 9/1/21