Relativity Series

Organization Name: Relativity Series

Link to site: https://latw.org/relativity-series

Host: L.A. Theatre Works

Organization Type: Podcast series

Overview of Organization: The Relativity Series presents science as a thoroughly human endeavor, bringing to life the people and stories behind the research and invention which shapes and changes our world. 

(Overview provided by L.A. Theatre Works website)

Sponsors and Partners: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Team:

Ronn Lipkin – Senior Radio Producer

Michele Cobb – Audio Sales Director

Organization History: L.A Theatre works is the largest producer of audio theatre in the world, producing over 500 plays to be listened too. Since the Relativity Series start in 2017, they have produced over 30 audio theatre works made available through podcast. All plays are co-produced and funded with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Containing both plays and interviews with scientists, the Relativity Series can be enjoyed by all. 

(History information from https://exchange.prx.org/series/31136-l-a-theatre-works)

The Relativity Series is available through the L.A. Theatre Works website, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Plays Featured

Play Performed: Arcadia

Playwright: Tom Stoppard

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia merges science with human concerns and ideals, examining the universe’s influence in our everyday lives and ultimate fates through relationship between past and present, order and disorder and the certainty of knowledge. Set in an English country house in the years 1809-1812 and 1989, the play examines the lives of two modern scholars and the house’s current residents with the lives of those who lived there 180 years earlier. Music composed and arranged by John Rubinstein. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Physics, Mathematics

Play Performed: Behind the Sheet

Playwright: Charly Evon Simpson

Genres: Historical/Drama

Synopsis: An important medical breakthrough has a shameful history. In 1840’s Alabama, a slave-owning doctor performs medical experiments on involuntary subjects – enslaved women – in an effort to solve the problem of fistulas, a post-childbirth anomaly. As the experiments proceed, and he gets close to a solution, the women try to survive and even find dignity in the face of inhuman treatment. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Medicine

Play Performed: Boy

Playwright: Anna Zielger

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Anna Ziegler’s Boy is a powerful statement about sexual identity and the mystery of what makes us who we are. After a baby boy is seriously injured in an accident, a doctor persuades his parents to raise the child as a girl. As the child grows up, the child—known as Samantha and Adam at different times—faces an extraordinary challenge to carve out a place in the world. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Medicine

Play Performed: Breaking the Code

Playwright: Hugh Whitemore

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Brilliant mathematician Alan Turing cracked the German Enigma code and enabled the Allies to win World War II. But Turing was to find that the country he saved cared less about his genius and more about his sexual orientation.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Mathematics 

Play Performed: Completeness 

Playwright: Itamar Moses

Genres: Romantic Comedy

Synopsis: A play about love between gun-shy young scientists. Just how does a computer scientist romance a molecular biologist? Elliot offers to build a computer program to help Molly with her latest research project, but they discover that love just might be the winning formula—if they can only move beyond their fear and past heartbreak.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Computer Science

Play Performed: Copenhagen

Playwright: Michael Frayn 

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: How different would the world have looked had the Nazis been the first to build an atomic bomb? Werner Heisenberg, one of Hitler’s lead nuclear scientists, famously and mysteriously met in Copenhagen with his colleague and mentor, Niels Bohr, one of the founders of the Manhattan Project. Michael Frayn’s Tony Award®-winning drama imagines their reunion. Joined by Niels’ wife, Margrethe, these three brilliant minds converge for an encounter of atomic proportions.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Physics

Play Performed: Doctor Cerberus

Playwright: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s coming-of-age, coming-out cocktail with a twist of terror. Thirteen-year-old Franklin Robertson is trying to survive adolescence. His parents don’t understand him, his brother torments him, he has no friends, and he’s more interested in the high school quarterback than any girl. The one bright spot in his life is the glow of the black-and-white TV in his parents’ basement. Here, he worships at the altar of the Saturday Night Horror Movie, hosted by the eerie Dr. Cerberus. Before long, Franklin is convinced that only by going on the show will his life be redeemed—by Dr. Cerberus himself! 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Sociology

Play Performed: The Doctor’s Dilemma

Playwright: George Bernard Shaw

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: The blowhards, the know-it-alls, the scrupulous and the impecunious are all targets for Shaw’s incisive wit in his classic satire of the medical profession. A well-respected physician is forced to choose whom he shall save: a bumbling friend or the ne’er-do-well husband of the woman he loves.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Medicine

Play Performed: Donny’s Brain

Playwright: Rona Munro

Genres: Drama 

Synopsis: The acclaimed Scottish playwright Rona Munro has created a remarkable story about a man who wakes up from a car crash with brain damage. Now, he sees the world as the person he was three years ago, when his life and loves were in a very different place. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Neuroscience

Play Performed: End Days

Playwright: Deborah Zoe Laufer

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: In Deborah Zoe Laufer’s End Days, a suburban family is undergoing a spiritual crisis following the September 11th attacks. Sylvia Stein has turned to Christianity to save her disaffected husband Arthur and her rebellious teenage daughter Rachel. But as Sylvia races around preparing for the Rapture, Rachel is learning that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Physics

Play Performed: An Enemy of the People

Playwright: Henrik Ibson

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: When a small town relies on tourists flocking to its baths, will a report of dangerously polluted waters be enough to shut them down? Henrik Ibsen weighs the cost of public health versus a town’s livelihood in An Enemy of the People.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Environmental 

Play Performed: The Explorers Club

Playwright: Nell Benjamin

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: It’s London, 1879, and the hapless members of the Explorers Club must confront their most lethal threat yet: the admission of a woman into their hermetically-sealed ranks. But the intrepid Phyllida Spotte-Hume turns out to be the least of their troubles, in this hilarious farce starring members of the original Broadway cast.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Geography 

Play Performed: Fake

Playwright: Eric Simonson

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Oscar-winning and Tony-nominated writer and director Eric Simonson explores the most famous archeological hoax in history. Alternating between 1914 and 1953, journalists and scientists set out to uncover who planted the Piltdown Man skull. Everyone’s a suspect, including legendary Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Archeology 

Play Performed: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial 

Playwright: Peter Goodchild

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: The Scopes Trial, over the right to teach evolution in public schools, reaffirmed the importance of intellectual freedom as codified in the Bill of Rights. The trial, in a small-town Tennessee courtroom in 1925, set the stage for ongoing debates over the separation of Church and State in a democratic society—debates that continue to this day. Peter Goodchild used transcripts from the trial to create this intense docudrama. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Evolutionary Theory

Play Performed: Headstrong

Playwright: Patrick Link

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: In the wake of increasing concern over brain trauma in professional athletes, Patrick Link has crafted a story about a retired NFL linebacker who must deal with a family tragedy and his own suffering because of the violence of his chosen sport. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Neuroscience

Play Performed: An Immaculate Misconception

Playwright: Carl Djerassi

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Dr. Melanie Laidlaw is a scientist developing the first use of ICSI, short for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Her collaborator, Dr. Felix Frankenthaler, turns out to have his own ideas about how to implement their new procedure. The wild card is Melanie’s new lover, Menachem Dvir, a fellow scientist. Carl Djerassi’s darkly comic ménage-à-trois plays out not only in bedrooms and labs, but also in test tubes and under the microscope.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Medicine, Biology

Play Performed: Intelligence-Slave

Playwright: Kenneth Lin

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: The story of Curt Herzstark, an Austrian industrialist and concentration camp prisoner who was sent by the Nazis to an underground salt mine during the war. While in captivity, he continued his experiments with a device that would eventually become the hand-held calculator. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Mathematics

Play Performed: Lenin’s Embalmers

Playwright: Vern Thiessen

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: After Vladimir Lenin’s death, Stalin orders two Jewish scientists to preserve Lenin’s body for all time. If they succeed, the rewards will be considerable. If not, it’s the gulag – or worse. Based on real events, Vern Theissen’s nimble dark comedy exposes the absurdities of Soviet life under Stalin. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Chemistry

Play Performed: The Lost World

Playwright: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s rollicking adventure tale follows a scientific expedition deep into the Amazon jungle—right back into the time of dinosaurs and cavemen. Before Jurassic Park, before Indiana Jones—there was The Lost World! Adapted by John de Lancie and Nat Segaloff. Original music composed and performed by Peter Erskine. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Anthropology 

Play Performed: Lucy

Playwright: Damien Atkins

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: In a thought-provoking play by Damien Atkins, thirteen-year-old Lucy, who suffers from autism, moves in with her estranged and misanthropic mother. Having lived her entire life with her father, Lucy, as well as her mom, struggle with all the difficulties of such an arrangement.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Biology, Genetics 

Play Performed: Moving Bodies

Playwright: Arthur Giron

Genres: Comedy

Synopsis: A chronicle of the brilliant life of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Richard Feynman. From his role in the development of the atomic bomb to his controversial testimony at the investigation of the Challenger disaster, Feynman casts a long shadow across the worlds of physics and mathematics. Through playwright Arthur Giron’s eyes, we see how Feynman became one of the most important scientists of our time. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Quantum Mechanics 

Play Performed: The Other Place

Playwright: Sharr White

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. But, piece by piece, a mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present, and the elusive truth about Juliana boils to the surface.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Neuroscience

Play Performed: Photograph 51

Playwright: Anna Ziegler

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Rosalind Franklin was a gifted research scientist who was part of the race to uncover the secrets of DNA in the 1950’s. Her more famous contemporaries Watson and Krick took all the kudos for the discovery of the molecule’s double helix structure—yet it was Franklin’s skill with X-ray diffraction that first uncovered what’s called “the secret of life.”

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Genetics

Play Performed: The Physicists

Playwright: Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Genres: Drama (satire)

Synopsis: In Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s play, Johann Mobius, the world’s greatest physicist, is locked away in a madhouse along with two other scientists. Why? Because he is haunted by recurring visions of King Solomon, and the other two are convinced they are Einstein and Newton. But are these three actually mad? Or are they playing a murderous game with the world at stake?  This darkly comic satire probes the cost of sanity among men of science and whether it is the mad who are the truly sane. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Physics

Play Performed: Please Continue

Playwright: Frank Basloe

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Based on the true story of renowned social psychologist Stanley Milgram, Please Continue recounts the infamous obedience experiments at Yale in the 1960s. In that study, participants were asked to administer strong electric shocks to a subject who gave the wrong answer to a question, not knowing that the shocks were fake, and they were the real subject of the study. The play examines how the experiments gave insight into the nature of authoritarianism and individual morality.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Psychology 

Play Performed: Proof

Playwright: David Aurburn

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Based on the true story of renowned social psychologist Stanley Milgram, Please Continue recounts the infamous obedience experiments at Yale in the 1960s. In that study, participants were asked to administer strong electric shocks to a subject who gave the wrong answer to a question, not knowing that the shocks were fake, and they were the real subject of the study. The play examines how the experiments gave insight into the nature of authoritarianism and individual morality.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Mathematics

Play Performed: The Real Dr. Strangelove

Playwright: Peter Goodchild

Genres: Historical Drama

Synopsis: The birth of Armageddon. The first H-Bomb detonates and the proud father is Edward Teller. But he’s on a collision course with Robert Oppenheimer, head of the team that created the Atomic bomb. Now Oppenheimer has turned pacifist and the government will stop at nothing to neutralize him. And Teller is their star witness. Peter Goodchild based the play on his book.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Physics

Play Performed: Relativity

Playwright: Cassandra Medley

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: At the center of Cassandra Medley’s play is the controversial idea that higher concentrations of melanin in the genetic makeup of people of color make them mentally, physically, and spiritually superior. Based on the scientific studies of her now-deceased father, Kalima, a fledgling molecular scientist looking to come into her own, has a difficult time owning his flawed research. Her mother Claire, who carries her deceased husband’s scientific torch, has a hard time reckoning with her daughter’s enlightenment. 

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Genetics

Play Performed: The Ruby Sunrise

Playwright: Rinne Groff

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Hailed by The Boston Globe as “a gem,” The Ruby Sunrise begins when a 1920s tomboy feverishly works to develop her latest invention—a little something called “television.” Twenty-five years later, her daughter will stop at nothing to bring her mother’s incredible story to life during TV’s Golden Age. But will it get the truth it deserves?

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Technology

Play Performed: Secret Order

Playwright: Bob Clyman

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: In the high-stakes world of cancer research, Dr. William Shumway has just made a stunning breakthrough. But is it really the long-sought cure for cancer? Despite the young scientist’s reservations, a senior mentor pressures him to trumpet his findings to the world. Part medical drama, part suspense-filled thriller, Bob Clyman’s Secret Order turns its microscope on bioethics, money and power.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Biology

Play Performed: Spill

Playwright: Leigh Fondakowski

Genres: Drama (Verbatim Theatre)

Synopsis: In April of 2010, British Petroleum gave orders to speed up production on its colossal drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon. Despite the objections of many on the rig, safety measures were ignored or overlooked. On April 20th, the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Eleven men paid the ultimate price and countless thousands who call the Gulf Coast home found their lives irrevocably altered.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Technology

Play Performed: And the Sun Stood Still

Playwright: Dava Sobel

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Dava Sobel’s thoughtful play brings to life the story of Nicolaus Copernicus, the Renaissance astronomer and mathematician who proposed the heliocentric model of the universe in which the Sun stands at the center. Plagued by self-doubt and threatened by religious censure, Copernicus resisted the publication of his work until just before his death in 1543. The play follows Copernicus in those final years as he works to complete his research with the help of Georg Rheticus, a young disciple from Wittenberg, Germany.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Astronomy 

Play Performed: Tooth and Claw

Playwright: Michael Hollinger

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: In an emotional ecosystem as complex as that of our planet, is life nothing more than survival of the fittest? Michael Hollinger based his probing work on the real-life giant tortoise named ‘Lonesome George’, and the efforts to preserve his species that threatened the livelihood of the native fishermen on the Galàpagos Islands.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Evolutionary Theory

Play Performed: War of the Worlds

Playwright: H.G. Wells

Genres: Drama

Synopsis: Join actors from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation as they recreate this classic radio thriller. The breathless pace and convincing details make it clear why the 1938 broadcast of an “eyewitness report” of an invasion from Mars caused a nationwide panic. Originally directed by Orson Welles and performed by his Mercury Theatre of the Air, War of the Worlds is an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel of the same name.

(Synopsis provided by L.A. Theatre Works)

Discipline: Technology

Links: https://latw.org/relativity-series

https://exchange.prx.org/series/31136-l-a-theatre-works

https://latw.org

Entered by: Anna Galanides

Photo/Visual Research with citations

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