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Left column: Taylor A. Blackman and Allyson Dwyer. Top row, right: Jake Brasch, Meghan Brown, Cayenne Douglass. Middle row: Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin, Amy Jo Jackson, Victor Lesniewski. Bottom row: Matthew Paul Olmos, SEVAN, Vern Thiessen.

EST/Sloan Announces 11 New Science-Oriented Play Commissions

The unique partnership also announced grants for new works at 2 New England theatres.

NEW YORK CITY: Ensemble Studio Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have announced their new EST/Sloan Project commissions for the 2022-2023 season. Begun in 1998, the EST/Sloan Project is an initiative designed to stimulate artists to create credible and compelling work exploring the worlds of science and technology, and to challenge the existing stereotypes of scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. EST will continue their partnership with the Sloan Foundation through the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science & Technology Project.

The 2022/23 Sloan Commission recipients and plays are:

Taylor A. Blackman, whose To Infinity follows a mother-and-son pair of scientists who differ on the future of humanity over Thanskgiving dinner.

Jake Brasch, whose Why The Sun Goes Down involves a man who wakes up from a routine surgery in an Elmo costume at an East Village diner and must piece together what happened to him.

Meghan Brown’s BIGFOOT is about a disgraced physicist who must reckon with her damaged reputation and with the power of conspiracy theories.

Cayenne Douglass’s Girl Talk tells the story of a female geophysicist and cartologist in the 1950s whose work is initially dismissed due to sexism but who wins over a skeptical male colleague.

Allyson Dwyer’s Extraordinary Machine takes inspiration from the late computer programmer and activist Aaron Swartz and the ways his relationship with technology and his story mirror the arc, and the often unmet potential, of the internet.

Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin’s Torque Bitch follows three female high schoolers and their quest to win a regional science fair despite the distracting charms of their obvious foe, Science Boy.

Amy Jo Jackson’s Grace/Bliss is about a woman who retreats to her grandmother’s old house to nurse her disappoinments, only to unearth a correspondence between two early 20th-century botanists.

Victor Lesniewski’s Untitled Big Data Play traces the origins of data collection back to the 1970s, with special focus on the engineering behind databases and data anonymization techniques.

Matthew Paul Olmos’s monk seal murder to begin with airs a debate over ecological balance and Indigeneity on an undisclosed island where someone has been killing monk seals.

SEVAN’s play Sameera’s Shadow tells the true story of an all but forgotten Egyptian Muslim woman scientist, Sameera Moussa, who, while seeking a cure for cancer, discovered a breakthrough formula that made the atomic bomb possible.

Vern Thiessen’s Scent stages a battle royale between two French perfumers during WWII.

In addition to awarding artist commissions, the EST/Sloan Project also offers grants to regional theatres through the EST/Sloan Project’s National Partnership for New Plays, which supports theatres nationwide who wish to sponsor a local project focused on science and technology, either by commissioning a new script or developing an existing piece. For the 2022/23 season, grants were awarded to Hartford Stage in Connecticut for Her Math Play by Christina Pumariega, and Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Mass., for Beyond Words by Laura Maria Censabella.

Ensemble Studio Theatre’s mission is to develop and produce original, provocative, and authentic new work. The theatre is known for its biennial Marathon of One-Act Plays, an essential part of the New York theatre scene since it launched in 1977. As of the 2023 fiscal year, EST has a budget of approximately $1.9 million.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. They believe that a reasoned, systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society can lead to a better world for all.

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