Labs, Lights, and Action

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Weizmann Institute theater group


Once a week, one young scientist and fifteen students from the Weizmann Institute's Feinberg Graduate School meet, almost in secret, in one of the Institute's lecture halls. The name of the game: theater, bright lights, impersonating different characters, personal expression, audience applause.
By day they conduct experiments in biotechnology, isolate genes, observe biochemical processes in cells, build mathematical models describing natural phenomena, and investigate the properties of semiconductors and superconductors. By night they examine different ways of expressing emotions, and work on how best to present their character.
'A scientist must fully control his or her experiment in order to produce the most accurate results, whereas an actor must be free of all conventions,' says Liat Haklai Topper, a student in the Molecular Cell Biology Department. 'But both science and theater require sensual, open, and creative thinking, although they involve different types of creativity.'
The troupe members do it all on their own - prepare the costumes and the sets, control the sound and lighting, even sell and distribute the tickets. This year they will be staging Shakespeare's Twelfth Night; or, What You Will, a tangled love triangle. Having lost her brother, the countess Olivia goes into mourning and refuses to continue with her life. Orsino, Duke of Illyria is desperately in love with her and dispatches his court messengers in the hope of changing her mind. Enter Viola, a young girl who is weak and dispirited having survived a storm at sea in which she believes her twin brother, Sebastian, drowned. To survive in a foreign land, Viola becomes a servant of the Duke. She arrives at his court dressed as a boy, Cesario.
Before long, Orsino tells her of his unrequited love and begs her to plead his case. She agrees, although it is clear that she herself has fallen in love with Orsino... and the web gets ever more complex as Olivia begins to show an interest in Viola, alias Cesario.
This year the students were joined by Dr. Uri Alon, a senior scientist in the Molecular Cell Biology Department. 'In the lab, the status of a scientist is of course different from that of a student, but here, on stage, all barriers fall,' says Noa Ofen-Noy, the troupe's coordinator. 'In real life, Ron Chen is Dr. Alon's student, but in the play they are engaged in numerous amusing conflicts.'
'This is a highly intelligent, creative, witty, kicking and punching group,' says theater director Sharon Bar Ziv, a graduate of the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, one of the most respected acting schools in Israel. 'Working with them is an amazing experience. Even though they are amateurs, they take what they do seriously and the results are therefore truly professional. All those who enjoy theater are invited to attend our December performance. A first class act is guaranteed.'