Words slightly overlapping: Explorations in contemporary theater and biochemistry

Plan Author

  • James Young, 2009

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Contemporary Dramaturgical Investigations
  • Tutorial: Nanoparticle Toxicology
  • Course: America on Stage and Screen

Project Description

Studies in theater and biochemistry with an emphasis on practical applications.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Edward Isser, College of Holy Cross, and George O’Toole, Dartmouth Medical School


Both the sciences and the arts require creativity and experimentation. Regardless of their chosen field, the best students are often those who know how to take existing material and develop new insights from it. This Plan approaches experimentation from two very different angles: theater and biochemistry.

The Plan’s biochemistry experiments center around pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common bacteria found nearly everywhere in nature. P. aeruginosa was exposed to lithium titanate (LTO), a common material in batteries, in both its bulk and nanoparticle form. Nano-sized LTO produces more efficient batteries, but was also found to be more toxic in experiments with P. aeruginosa – a finding which has implications for the batteries’ production and disposal.

The theater portion explores how a group of actors can work together to interpret a minimalist script and turn it into a production. Under the direction of the author, a team of actors collaborated to produce a new interpretation of Richard Maxwell’s House (1999), a postdramatic play written without stage direction. Finally, the Plan contains several scenes by the author with incorporate science education into theater.


“I want to get people as excited about science as I am, and theater is one way to do that. It also provides that tenuous connection between two worlds I love.”

“We took some liberties with the ellipses in the script – here, for example, Wife’s pause before ‘You do like it here’ was sometimes so long that it became delightfully awkward, while Father often reacted before she had finished speaking. In general, though, we tried to pay attention to the ellipses, pauses, dashes and other grammatical hints, and use them as guides.”

“Rhamnolipids seem to be a ubiquitous presence in P. aeruginosa, with a role in every cellular activity. This may simply be the nature of (glycolipid) biosurfactants, due to their high activity at interfaces, surfaces and cell membranes.”


“I remember struggling with how to tie together the two parts of my Plan. I wanted to study science and theater, and was particularly interested in how theater could be used to teach people about science.”