STEM FEMMES’ cen­ters women in sci­ence with theater

2 minute read
'STEM FEMMES' combines STEM and art, highlighting women's achievements and innovations. (Photo by Cass Meehan)
'STEM FEMMES' combines STEM and art, highlighting women's achievements and innovations. (Photo by Cass Meehan)

Applied Mechanics and Philadelphia Young Playwrights present STEM FEMMES, a play about eight women, their lives, and their discoveries, achievements, and innovations in their respective fields. Audiences can reserve tickets for STEM FEMMES for December 13-15 at Studio B in the Asian Arts Initiative building.

Where science meets art

Rebecca Wright, director and cofounder of Applied Mechanics and director of STEM FEMMES, is particularly keen to combine STEM and art. “Using the medium of theater to communicate complex ideas from other fields was one of the things we’re really excited about,” she said. “If what you want is to support innovative theater from the ground up, this is for you.”

The performance utilizes an almost backwards theater-in-the-round technique, with the audience placed at the center as the interweaving vignettes unravel around them. Participants are invited to engage with interlocking scenes about Jeanne Baret, Ada Lovelace, Marie Von Britten Brown, Rosalind Franklin, Helen Yee Chow Ling, Judith Resnik, Nalini Nadkarni, and Emmanuelle Charpentier.

As to why this content is important to showcase right now, Wright notes that it’s not suddenly time to shine a spotlight on the women history has forgotten. “Why not before is more the question," she says. "History is full of uncelebrated heroes and those heroes are usually not men. We’ve spent a lot of time excavating unsung heroes and celebrating them.”

The performance communicates complex, innovative ideas with its own complex innovation. (Photo by Maria Shaplin)
The performance communicates complex, innovative ideas with its own complex innovation. (Photo by Maria Shaplin)

Students become the teachers

Combining “prominent voices in the Philadelphia theater community alongside the next generation,” the cast of STEM FEMMES portrays both the personal histories and scientific contributions of the women it features. However, communicating such technical work in an interesting and engaging way presented a challenge. When figuring out how to best communicate with young people, Wright simply looked to the teenage PYP participants to tell her how they learn best.

“They have expertise on what fun and effective ways of learning are,” Wright explained. “It’s been amazing working with these young people who bring so much experience about what pedagogy is effective.”

What, Where, When:

STEM FEMMES takes place at 6pm on Friday, December 13, 11am on Saturday, December 14, and 5pm on Sunday, December 15 in Studio B on the second floor of Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St.

Donations will be accepted at the door, and free tickets can be reserved here.

The venue is wheelchair accessible.

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