The Saint Louis Repertory Theater’s festival of new play readings began its third season last night. This year’s first of three plays was entitled, “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Evolution”. It would be fair to say that Anne was all over this play like a fruit fly on a banana. There are four actors in the play, the biology teacher, the questioning student, the principal and the student’s mother. Evolution is on the curriculum, but fundamentalist Christianity was posing the ten questions. The setting is the contemporary rural Midwest. Arguments were made, but in the end no one was swayed, at least in the version of the play that we heard.
After these readings there is a Q&A session that Seth the producer always leads. The playwright is brought out and is the audience here. Seth always asks the same questions:
What do you remember best about the play?
What do you think that the play was about?
The first question usually elicits responsive answers that either quote memorable lines or reiterate important plot points. By the time that the Q&A gets to the second question most of the respondents are off on their own tangents. Sometimes the playwright is relatively silent and it is all Seth, but this night’s was highly interactive. Following the formal Q&A, wine and cheese is brought out and the playwright and all the actors are available for more one-on-one Q&A. As per usual, everyone was flown in from NYC for an intense three-day gig. Did I mention that this deal only costs the audience $6?
The typical Broadway play takes eight years to mature. In the intervening eight years these proto-play evolve. In these readings we see them in their relatively immature and highly malleable form. Just this week, a happy rationalist’s ending with the Christian student seeing the Darwinian light transformed into the stalemate that we saw. The more 1-on-1 Q&A gave us even more of the thought process on this and many other points.
We both enjoyed the play. There are still two more to go in the festival, but in the end only one will likely be produced by the Rep. As an aside, a NYC vulture audience member approached the playwright with an offer, just in case his wasn’t the one picked up by the Rep. I love seeing the seamier side of show business, especially up close and personal.
The ten questions refered to in the play are real questions. Intelligent design creationist Jonathan Wells has written the insidious “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution.” These questions try to encourage students to doubt and distrust evolutionary theory. Here is a link to where these questions are posted along with ten scientific answers. They are published there by the National Center for Scientific Education.