For the third year in a row, science meets theater at UCSB, where the Professional Artists Lab and NanoSystems Institute are yet again co-sponsoring an annual playwriting competition for scripts that explore scientific or technological themes. Called STAGE-an acronym for Scientists, Technologists, and Artists Generating Exploration-and spearheaded by Nancy Kawalek, the competition is already an international success. Here’s why you should enter:

1)Win big money: The prize is a whopping $10,000, courtesy of unnamed “private donors.” When she launched the competition, Kawalek knew that a substantial prize would draw international attention and prestigious judges from both the academic and theatrical worlds. It’s worked-last year, one entry came from Nigeria, and previous entrants included “very established playwrights” and a Nobel laureate.

The STAGE contest's complete poster.

2)Great exposure: The first year’s winner, Jamie Pachino, read Splitting Infinity at Los Angeles’ REDCAT Theater, in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with the help of actors from NYPD Blue, The OC, and Frasier, and the play went on to run at regional theaters. Last year’s winner, Elyse Singer, will be celebrating the world premiere of Frequency Hopping at 3LD, a theater in New York City, later this month.

3)Get experimental: Creative success is often the product of failure, and many Nobel Prize winners came upon their discoveries by mistake. “We don’t really do that in the arts anymore because of commercial concerns. : Most theaters are just trying to survive,” said Kawalek. “We need a place like that where we can try great work and fail horribly.”

4)Make theater more relevant: Kawalek, whose background is in New York City theater, explained, “I’m still very excited by theater, but I see a lot of theater and a lot of it is pretty bad-it has nothing to do with our lives. Yet we’re living these incredibly technological lives, and we’re influenced by science and technology at every second.” She envisions a multimedia future with our technologically influenced lives explored fully. “What’s gonna make a 15-year-old go to the theater? There’s not a reason unless it somehow connects. : Science and technology will keep theater vital and interesting.”

Nancy Kawalek, founder/director of UCSB's Professional Artists Lab and the STAGE competition
Mary Ann Halpin

5)Help spread science: Many scientists aren’t very good at getting the word out about their important work, says Kawalek. “Remarkably, scientists are usually more excited about the STAGE competition than artists,” she explained. “They think, ‘Oh my god! This is great. Someone can explain what we do and people will be excited by it.'”


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