Fiona Lindsay contemplates the intersection between the arts and science.
Theatre encourages us to view the world from every angle. The best position from which to do this fruitfully is often a middle one - the intersection between one opinion and another. This enables us to examine multiple social and cultural structures, in order to have half a chance of understanding all that we see before us.
I’ve been preoccupied by the notion of intersection all week. On Saturday I shared the lead on running an empowerment workshop for the mayoral candidates for the newly formed Women’s Equality Party, with my team teachers being the novelist and playwright Stelly Duffy, Actor Tanya Moodie, voice coach Rob Hartmann and drama tutor and musician Jen Toksvig. The session threw up many issues, but I was particularly drawn to the heated discussion on whether to support STEM or STEAM.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths are incredibly creative subjects and those that fall under the arts banner – English, History, Music, Art, Drama – all require participants to be enquiring, forensic and precise in equal measure. Setting STEM subjects and arts based subjects up in opposition will not provide a big clever learning experience for students in any shape or form. We need to adopt a one-world philosophy that embraces all disciplines equally and theatre offers the perfect foundation for this (I would say this, of course).
I’ve always believed this and whilst at the RSC, often found myself talking about the rich and diverse range of expertise that made up the company. In fact, if you drill down into most theatre and production companies, you’ll find that science and the arts sit happily side by side in equal measure.
Robin Townley of the Association of British Theatre Technicians further endorsed this when we met him earlier this week to explore how we may work with his members in profiling the skills of all those that work backstage. Robin - an engineer by trade – is an expert storyteller and we hung on his every word, as he recounted the story of how the famous chandelier drop in The Phantom of the Opera was created. It was a perfect example of the goldmine of intersection, insight and fusion that exists between the arts and science.
This week we publish our study guide on Sam Shepard’s great play, True West. True West magnifies the curious connection between craft and chaos, paying close attention to the intersection between them. We understand Austin and Lee better because of how and what each character reveals about the other. The play enables us to look through the lens of the intersection and consider the similarities between the seemingly opposite.
A= Arts + S = Science = As one world
Today we publish the True West Study Guide.