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Science on Stage

Join us for a series of play readings, each exploring a wide range of provocative questions at the intersection of science, technology, and society.

Science on Stage is organized through the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, produced in collaboration with the Central Square Theater.

6:00pm - Light refreshments.
6:30pm-8:00pm - Performance, conversation with guest scientist

$15 General Public
$5 MIT ID holders

Seating is Limited. Advance purchase is recommended.

Young Nerds of Color

Hiding in plain sight in the science labs, grappling over civilization’s greatest challenges are Young Nerds of Color. Some speak with the poetry of wise sages, others subvert the establishment with renegade ways, and, finally, there are rock stars whose ideas flow like jazz improvisation – all changing the world like a bolt of lightning illuminating the night sky. If knowledge is power, their powers make them superheroes.

Playwright Melinda Lopez weaves together over 60 interviews with scientists from the most underrepresented backgrounds – with original music by Nona Hendryx – amplifying the rich harmonies, breaking down boundaries and showing us what is possible.

Arranged by Melinda Lopez. Directed by Des Bennett.

Moderator: Debra Wise, Director, Catalyst Collaborative@MIT

Other guests will be announced at a later time.

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Past Sessions

Machine Learning

When his estranged, alcoholic father is diagnosed with liver cancer, computer scientist Jorge dreams up a nursing app to manage the disease in his stead. As the machine's capabilities grow, however, the possibility of leaving it in charge of the treatment becomes more real, forcing Jorge to reckon with his responsibilities as a son—and as a creator.

Written by Francisco Mendoza. Directed by Gabriel Vega Weissman.

Note: Attendees may want to read Professor Ogbunu’s interview with Lupe Fiasco about the fusion between academia and hip-hop before attending this event.

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picture of Debra Wise

Moderator: Debra Wise

Director, Catalyst Collaborative@MIT
picture of Lupe Fiasco

Guest speaker: Lupe Fiasco

Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT

Guest scientist: C. Brandon Ogbunu

Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT
picture of Peter Szolovits

Guest Scientist: Peter Szolovits

Professor of Computer Science and Engineering MIT EECS
picture of playwright

Playwright: Francisco Mendoza

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Director: Gabriel Vega Weissman

Two Degrees

Emma Phelps is a paleoclimatologist, focusing on ice in Greenland. In drilling and studying ice core samples, she sees first-hand the symptoms of our changing planet, which makes the need to act all the more crucial and urgent. In addition to her growing sense of urgency for the planet, Emma, as a recent widow, experiences grief that compounds itself with each passing month. Now she's been asked to come to Washington D.C. to testify in a Senate Committee regarding climate change legislation, and in this intersection of science and politics, of politics and the personal, she finds more than just a little is breaking up under the strain of change.

From the playwright, Tira Palmquist: “As my play took shape, I realized that my question was, how do we move from inaction to action? How do we change from doubt to conviction? Finding the arguments, the language to convince deniers has to happen – but in order to do that we have to figure out how we fix us.”

This Science on Stage program will be Directed by Paige Clark. A discussion will follow immediately following the reading with guest scientist Susan Solomon of MIT’s Program in Atmospheric, Oceans, and Climate and Debra Wise of the Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT.

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Paige Clark

Director, Central Square Theater

Susan Solomon

Guest Scientist, Professor of Environmental Studies, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Studies, MIT

Debra Wise

Moderator, Project Direct, Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT

The Moderate

Unemployed, and estranged from his wife and son, Frank accepts a job offer from a contractor to moderate content for one of the world’s largest social media companies. This work takes a toll on Frank until he realizes he might have the power to save someone and himself in the process.

Playwright, Ken Urban who teaches playwriting at MIT says, “My new play about the world of internet content moderators is a work of fiction. But I spent months interviewing researchers and speaking to content moderators, and their words had a big impact as I wrote this play. I often challenge myself to write about people and places far removed from my own experience, and research helps me get inside the minds of my characters and to do justice to their stories.”

Guest scientist, Crystal Lee, MIT SERC and Comparative Media Studies adds, "My work investigates what I call the "the life-cycle of data representations," or the process by which datasets are curated, cleaned, visualized, circulated, and manipulated."

A Commission from EST/Alfred P. Sloan Science & Technology Project and in development with The Civilians R&D Group.

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Lee Mikeska Gardner, Moderator

Artistic Director, Central Square Theater

Ken Urban, Playwright

Senior Lecturer, Music and Theater, MIT

Jared Mezzochi, Director

Theater Director and Designer

Crystal Lee, Guest Scientist

Senior Fellow, Responsible Computer Science, Mozilla