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Stage Play “An Experiment with an Air Pump”

New Stage Production in Collaboration Project between Biologists at Freie Universität and English Theatre Berlin / Premiere on February 8, 2011

№ 4/2011 from Jan 07, 2011

Science & Theatre, a collaborative project between English Theatre Berlin and the Institute of Biology, Freie Universität, has produced a new play. The premiere of An Experiment with an Air Pump by the British playwright Shelagh Stephenson will be on Tuesday, February 8, 2011. The play will be performed a total of 15 times that month. The joint project between the university and the theater has been running for one year. The first resulting production, A Number by Caryl Churchill, was performed in 2010 and will be back on the program of the English Theatre in June 2011.

Young scientists and advanced science students studying biology at Freie Universität developed the science behind the two plays and prepared the presentations together with the dramatists of the English Theatre. The project is an interface between science and the arts and explores ethical and social aspects of the natural sciences by staging science plays and science communication in theatre. Regine Hengge, professor of microbiology at Freie Universität, and the young biologists first discuss the scientific aspects as part of a seminar. They then research the scientific background and provide the groundwork for the dramatic productions by the director Günther Grosser, the actors, and stage designers.

In the play An Experiment with an Air Pump the ethical limits of science are explored in two different time periods. The Fenwick family lives in the same house with Ellen and Tom but separated by 200 years. The Fenwicks are living in 1799: Dr. Fenwick makes revolutionary scientific experiments, a pack of rebels is outside his front door, and his research assistant is chasing after the housekeeper. Ellen and Tom are living in 1999: Ellen is a geneticist and has moral concerns about a job offer, while Tom is unemployed. It is a social drama, science play, and thriller, in which Shelagh Stephenson explores the issue of how much collateral damage is acceptable or even inevitable in science.

The Science & Theatre project is sponsored by the Schering Foundation.

Time and Place:

  • Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 8 p.m.
  • English Theatre Berlin, Fidicinstraße 40, 10965 Berlin
    (subway station: Platz der Luftbrücke, U 6)

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Regine Hengge, Freie Universität Berlin, Institute of Biologie
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838–53119, Email: