Play on British scientist, DNA pioneer coming to CSB

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October 8, 2019

Photo 51 BannerHave you ever wondered what a fusion of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University’s Biology and Theater Departments might look like?

If so, the upcoming performance of “Photograph 51” might be the perfect combination of fine arts and biology.

The play by Anna Ziegler will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17-19, 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24-26 at the Colman Black Box Theater, Benedicta Arts Center, CSB.

“Photograph 51” is set at King’s College in London, England. The play details the life of Rosalind Franklin, and her significant involvement in the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

It’s the compelling story of the British scientist who is often overlooked but who was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. 

According to Wikipedia, “Franklin is best known for her work on the X-ray diffraction images of DNA, particularly Photo 51, while at King's College London, which led to the discovery of the DNA double helix for which James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

“Watson suggested that Franklin would have ideally been awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Wilkins, but, although there was not yet a rule against posthumous awards, the Nobel Committee generally does not make posthumous nominations,” the website continued. Franklin had passed away in 1958.

Play director Sean Dooley, assistant professor of theater at CSB and SJU, describes the work as “a balance of the historical, romantic and scientific. ‘Photograph 51’ is a touching human play of ideas.”

“Photograph 51” features Sarah Larson (CSB senior, philosophy major, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota) as Franklin, Kaiden Burmeister (SJU first-year, psychology and chemistry majors, St. Peter, Minnesota) as Wilkins, Ben Gutzman (SJU first-year, biology and English majors, Cottage Grove, Minnesota) as Ray Gosling, Zach Kennedy (SJU senior, accounting major, Maple Grove, Minnesota) as Don Caspar, Kyle Yetzer (SJU junior, elementary education major, Lonsdale, Minnesota) as James Watson and Farrad Williams (SJU senior, English major, Newark, New Jersey) as Crick.

In addition, first-year student Mary Ludwig (biochemistry major, Delano, Minnesota) will serve as the props master of “Photograph 51.”

In preparation for the performance, student actors are working in conjunction with Katherine Furniss, visiting assistant professor of biology at CSB and SJU. Furniss is providing the student-actors with both details of the lives of scientists, as well as the story of the discovery of DNA.

There will be a closed performance of the play on Oct. 26 for local Girl Scout troops interested in a day packed to the brim with science. Prior to the performance, the Girl Scouts will work with Furniss on science-focused games. Following the performance, the students will have a meet and greet with the student actors. 

‘Photograph 51’ premiered in 2010 in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Later, it debuted in 2005 in London with Nicole Kidman as the lead actor.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for CSB/SJU faculty and staff, $3 for CSB/SJU students, $5 for seniors and $5 for youth. Tickets are available at the BAC Box Office, or online.