Annual Desmond Morton Research Excellence Lecture
The Annual Desmond Morton Research Excellence Award recognizes outstanding achievement in research and scholarly activity by faculty members of the University of Toronto Mississauga.
This year's recipient is Professor Martin Revermann, Historical Studies. Professor Revermann's research interests are not confined to Graeco-Roman antiquity, but cover the cultural history of theatre (both Western and Asian) more broadly and until the 21st century. He has made vital contributions to two areas of studies: Classics and Theatre Studies.
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The Theatre of Science: Abstract
The pandemic continues to make it absolutely clear that scientific insights need to be communicated effectively so that the general public understands and ‘buys in’ by changing its behavioural practices collectively. Convincing social theatre and persuasive performance techniques are crucial parts of such scientific communication strategies. In other words: the sciences need the theatre! This need will only grow in the future, as the vast majority of key sciences in the 21st century will be ‘embodied sciences’, i.e. sciences which affect the human body (individually and collectively) in very concrete and immediate ways: genetics-based medicine (including individually tailored vaccine treatments); environmental sciences; and Artificial Intelligence which will re-configure the relationship between the human body and its non-human counterparts.
The main part of the lecture will discuss how the theatre as an embodied communicative medium has interacted with the sciences in the past. Four key aspects will be considered: the scientist as a problematic hero; science and religion; science and power; and the relationship between science and language. To illustrate my points I will draw on four plays, spanning 2500 years of thinking about science with and through the medium theatre: Aristophanes’ Clouds (423 BCE), Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (ca. 1590), Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo (1955) and W;t by Margaret Edson (first performed in 1995).
In the final section of the lecture, I would like to build on the insights previously gained for a look ahead: how can theatre and performance in the future facilitate public education and enable critical public discourse regarding science, especially those ‘embodied sciences’ which will fundamentally re-shape our lives in the decades to come? Particular thought will be given to pedagogy at the university level and the benefits of an integrated theatre/science approach.
2014 Annual Desmond Morton Research Excellence Lecture - Professor Konstantin Khanin (event write-up)