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Vol. LXII, No. 5
March 5, 2010
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Play Celebrates Darwin’s Impact

This scale model shows one angle of the 28-foot by 10-foot mural, whose seven sections move and change throughout a new play illustrating the impact of Darwin.
This scale model shows one angle of the 28-foot by 10-foot mural, whose seven sections move and change throughout a new play illustrating the impact of Darwin.

Later this month, the Bethesda Theatre will host the world premiere of From Orchids to Octopi: An Evolutionary Love Story. The play was commissioned by NIH as part of the continuing celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday known as Evolution Revolution.

Following the Bethesda shows, From Orchids to Octopi will be performed in Cambridge, Mass., and at locations around the country.

The play tells the story of an artistic couple who find themselves pregnant unexpectedly and are simultaneously pulled apart by compelling, but conflicting, professional opportunities.

As the couple’s plans evolve, ordinary experiences and “pregnancy hallucinations” converge to give them—and the audience—a deeper understanding of natural selection.

Making guest appearances are the Darwin family, a carnival barker, dinosaurs, tiktaalik (the “missing link” between fish and land animals), tuberculosis and a two-headed cow named Buttercup. These fanciful characters help audiences understand a number of scientific concepts, including random mutation, competition for resources, adaptation, speciation, sexual selection, lactose tolerance, drug resistance and extinction.

The script also contains historical quotes from Darwin and his contemporaries.

Central to the play is an evolving mural created by a professional muralist. Made up of seven sections that move and change as the play progresses, the mural reflects the characters’ growing appreciation of evolution and displays in vivid colors the biodiversity of our world.

From Orchids to Octopi was written by award-winning playwright Melinda Lopez and produced by the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT (CC@MIT) in consultation with scientists from MIT and Harvard.

The CC@MIT is a collaboration between MIT and the Underground Railway Theater. Its mission is to create and present plays that deepen public understanding of science while providing a unique artistic and emotional experience. Eleven institutes and centers contributed to the development of the play.

Show times are on Monday, Mar. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Mar. 23 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 at the door or $15 plus fees through Ticketmaster in advance. The 10 a.m. show is free for school groups. Following the evening performances, audience members are invited to join a conversation with scientific experts and cast members.

The Bethesda Theatre is located within walking distance of NIH at 7719 Wisconsin Ave. Parking and accessibility information is available at www.bethesdatheatre. com/planyourvisit.html. For more information, contact Alisa Machalek at (301) 496-7301 or alisa.machalek@nih.gov. NIHRecord Icon

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