Science makes for good drama. The relatively recent success of plays such as Copengahen and Proof suggests that both mainstream playwrights and the theater‐loving public have caught on to this idea.

Science and theater also meet in science centers and museums. In these venues, however, the results are all too often excessively didactic and not sufficiently dramatic. Here I examine the differences between these two types of science theater, as well as thereasons for the greater success of the first type. I suggest that museum theater unwittingly opts out of the drama part of the contract by trying too hard to present the abstract results of scientific research. Mainstream playwrights, on the other hand, eschew the science lesson disguised as drama by sticking to the simple dictum that theater should ultimately be about people, not abstract concepts. The plays mentioned above, as well as other successful mainstream pieces with science as their subject, present the mindset and conduct of scientists and how they relate to the people surrounding them. As a conclusion, I suggest that the best strategy for scientific drama is to present science in action, not science in jars.

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Science onstage
Good ideas and not so good ideas

Sergio Regules   Dirección General de Divulgación de la Ciencia, UNAM

Science makes for good drama. The relatively recent success of plays such as Copengahen and Proof suggests that both mainstream playwrights and the theater‐loving public have caught on to this idea.

Science and theater also meet in science centers and museums. In these venues, however, the results are all too often excessively didactic and not sufficiently dramatic. Here I examine the differences between these two types of science theater, as well as thereasons for the greater success of the first type. I suggest that museum theater unwittingly opts out of the drama part of the contract by trying too hard to present the abstract results of scientific research. Mainstream playwrights, on the other hand, eschew the science lesson disguised as drama by sticking to the simple dictum that theater should ultimately be about people, not abstract concepts. The plays mentioned above, as well as other successful mainstream pieces with science as their subject, present the mindset and conduct of scientists and how they relate to the people surrounding them. As a conclusion, I suggest that the best strategy for scientific drama is to present science in action, not science in jars.

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