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Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to…

Science on Stage: From "Doctor Faustus" to "Copenhagen"

by Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

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This book provides a scholarly overview of various and sundry plays that are about science or scientists. Rereading my notes, I wonder if these plays aren't so much about science per se as history; a lot of them are about historical scientists or historical events. I found the discussion of medicine-based plays the most interesting, particularly Shepherd-Barr's reading of Wit, which she argues is about a body being studied the same way literary scholars study text-- thus saying something interesting about the dehumanizing effects of that kind of gaze, on body and text alike. I think the book struggles to have a focused argument about a number of plays that don't really have much in common, but I enjoyed it, and I'd like to check out several of the one plays discussed that I haven't seen.
  Stevil2001 | Feb 21, 2014 |
A discussion of science depicted on stage. The author is not a scientist, so might be expected to have a different view than scientists about the accuracy. She does consult some scientists about the depiction of science (mostly physics), but doesn't really account for the wide range of opinions. It is mostly well written, but there are a few poorly edited areas, and some statements that are less than factual, such as the idea that ideas are irreversible. To be totally fair, she is here looking at what the plays themselves are saying, that what is known can never be unknown, but she applauds this as an accurate statement. It doesn't take to in depth a study of history to realize that this fact is extremely inaccurate. One of the most useful things about this book is the appendix, where she lists a great many plays about science, some of them dating back to the Renaissance. This is good source material, and would make the price of the book worth it without even the rest of the book, if you're interested in researching plays about science. Unfortunately, she does not include publication data, which makes it difficult to track down some of these works. Overall, not bad, not sublime, but a fairly competent work. ( )
  Devil_llama | Nov 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0691121508, Hardcover)

Science on Stage is the first full-length study of the phenomenon of "science plays"--theatrical events that weave scientific content into the plot lines of the drama. The book investigates the tradition of science on the stage from the Renaissance to the present, focusing in particular on the current wave of science playwriting.

Drawing on extensive interviews with playwrights and directors, Kirsten Shepherd-Barr discusses such works as Michael Frayn's Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. She asks questions such as, What accounts for the surge of interest in putting science on the stage? What areas of science seem most popular with playwrights, and why? How has the tradition evolved throughout the centuries? What currents are defining it now? And what are some of the debates and controversies surrounding the use of science on stage?

Organized by scientific themes, the book examines selected contemporary plays that represent a merging of theatrical form and scientific content--plays in which the science is literally enacted through the structure and performance of the play. Beginning with a discussion of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, the book traces the history of how scientific ideas (quantum mechanics and fractals, for example) are dealt with in theatrical presentations. It discusses the relationship of science to society, the role of science in our lives, the complicated ethical considerations of science, and the accuracy of the portrayal of science in the dramatic context.

The final chapter looks at some of the most recent and exciting developments in science playwriting that are taking the genre in innovative directions and challenging the audience's expectations of a science play. The book includes a comprehensive annotated list of four centuries of science plays, which will be useful for teachers, students, and general readers alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:47 -0400)

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