Theater and Science Unite to Explore the Human Microbiome in "4:48"

June 13, 2018

ATLANTA—Playwriting marathon “4:48” returns to Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts Saturday, July 14 for a fourth edition of brand new, speed-written plays by some of Atlanta’s best and best-loved playwrights.  

Inspired by Paula Vogel’s playwriting Bake-Off process, “4:48” was originally developed and is produced by the Playwriting Center of Theater Emory, with initial funding from Theater Emory's Breaking Ground project.  After 48 hours of furious writing, playwrights Margaret Baldwin, Rachel DuBose, Natasha Patel, and Steve Yockey will emerge with four newly-formed plays all based on the same source material. 

“This process forces playwrights to get out of their own way, turn off the critical part of their brain and just write from an utterly unselfconscious place,” says Freni, playwright and former Emory University Playwriting Fellow. “The results are messy but brilliant and many of our participants have ended up with work that is well outside of their established voice or form. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re game, you get a lot out of it.” 

Some writers revel in the inherent risk. “I love these kinds of scary, breakneck writing challenges,” says Yockey who currently works as a writer and producer on television’s “Supernatural.” “I mean, any theater worth doing should come with at least some chance it’ll crash and burn.”

This year, science journalist Ed Yong’s masterwork “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” provides inspiration for the playwrights. Emory faculty engaged with research in the microbiome including David Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler Professor in Chemistry and Biology and Amanda Freeman, Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Center for the Study of Human Health, serve as an additional resource for the writers. 

“Sometimes referred to as a ‘forgotten organ,’ the human microbiome is a dynamic collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that is shaped by our actions and our environment, including the people around us,” explains Freeman. “This collaboration promises to be an engaging way to examine the interconnected relationships these factors have with our health and wellbeing.” 

“Starting to read ‘I Contain Multitudes’ is shifting my perspective of what it means to be human and an individual,” says Baldwin, a faculty member in Kennesaw State University’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies.  “It is both scary and strangely liberating to acknowledge that, as Yong says, ‘Every one of us is a zoo…A multi-species collective. An entire world.’” 

Rebekah Suellau and Theater Studies faculty member Lydia Fort direct the free play readings. 4:48 x 2018 is being produced in partnership with Emory's Center for the Study of Human Health.

Margaret Baldwin
Baldwin has had plays and ensemble works produced throughout the US and abroad. Her play “Night Blooms” received its world premiere at Horizon Theatre in Atlanta (2010) and its mid-Atlantic premiere at Virginia Repertory (2012). Margaret earned the 2011 Gene Gabriel Moore Playwriting for “Night Blooms” (2011) and a National AT&T Onstage Award for the premiere of her play “Her Little House” at Horizon Theatre in (2004). Recent adaptations include “The Followers: A Retelling of The Bacchae,” which premiered at 7 Stages Theatre in February 2018, and in the “Twilight: Chekhov’s Stories Retold,” produced by the KSU Department of Theatre and Performance Stories (2013). Her play “Coyote Hour,” was a finalist for the 2015 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Margaret is a Senior Lecturer for the KSU Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, where she has taught since 2005. She is the winner of the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award for Kennesaw State University and the 2016 University of Georgia Board of Regents Award for Excellence in Teaching. Margaret received her MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Paul Pendergrass. 

Rachel DuBose
Dubose is a Chicago-based playwright. She holds an MFA from Northwestern University Writing for the Screen + Stage and her B.A. from Spelman College. Her plays have been staged at Unbound, Spelman Salon at the Alliance Theatre, Fade to Black Festival, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Living Room Playmakers, Mercy Street Theatre Company, Black Lives Black Words, The Future is Female, and Jadesmash, Jackalope’s Living Newspaper Festival and DirHaven. Rachel is an associate artist at Pegasus Theatre Chicago, a Black Lives Black Words Associate Artist, a resident playwright at Mercy Street Theatre, a guest contributor at Black Girl Fly Magazine, and is one of the inaugural Russ Tutterow Fellows at Chicago Dramatists. Rachel has been a teaching artist with Pegasus Theatre Chicago and a graduate assistant at Northwestern University. She is currently working on “Trophies,” her Tutterow Fellow commission.

Natasha Patel
Patel is a writer living in her native Atlanta, Georgia. Her short and full-length plays “Diaper Relay,” “Cater Waiters,” “Spin, then Drain,” and “The Baby Shower,” have all received local productions. Her short story, “The Escaped Air,” was published by The East Bay Review in the Fall 2016 issue. Most recently, her play “Widowwood,” was a semi-finalist at the Bay Area Playwright's Festival. Currently, she's involved with a local theater group called Unproducible Plays: Year of Asian Voices project, which highlights Asian Artists and creates a conversation in the Atlanta theater community around the challenges of producing plays by Asian playwrights and/or plays with Asian characters. She has served as dramaturg for Directed Readings of Dipika Guha’s play “The Art of Gaman” and Aditi Kapil’s “Orange.” Natasha earned a BA from the University of Georgia and an MA from Columbia University.

Steve Yockey
Yockey is a Los Angeles based writer with work produced throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. His plays “Bellwether,” “Pluto,” “Afterlife,” “Octopus,” “Large Animal Games,” “CARTOON,” “Subculture,” “Very Still & Hard to See,” “The Fisherman’s Wife,” “Wolves,” “Disassembly,” and “Niagara Falls & Other Plays” are published and licensed by Samuel French.  Additionally, his play “Joshua Consumed an Unfortunate Pear” (originally commissioned by Miami’s City Theatre) was included in the 2015 Humana Festival of New American Plays and the subsequent anthology. Other plays include “Blackberry Winter,” “The Thrush & The Woodpecker,” and “Mercury.” This fall his new play “Reykjavík” will premiere at Actor’s Express in Atlanta, GA. Steve holds an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently serves as a writer/producer for the television series “Supernatural.”

Lydia Fort
Fort has directed at Cygnet Theatre, Diversionary Theatre, Perseverance Theatre, Women’s Project Theatre, Women Center Stage, Urban Stages, McCarter Theatre YouthInk! Festival, New Federal Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem, freeFall Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Planet Connections Festivity (where she was honored with the 2013 Best Director and Greener Planet Awards) as well as other festivals including the New Black Fest, 48 Hours in Harlem and the Fire This Time Festival. She was a Time Warner Foundation Fellow of the 2012-2014 Lab at Women’s Project Theater, a TCG New Generations Future Leaders Grantee, New York Theatre Workshop Directing Fellow, and Drama League Directing Fellow. Lydia received a BA from New York University and an MFA in Directing from the University of Washington. She is an Assistant Professor at Emory University where she teaches directing, acting, African American theatre, and eco-theatre.

Rebekah Suellau
Suellau is an Atlanta-based director, playwright and producer focused primarily in the development of new work and the cultivation of creative opportunities for women artists. She has directed and helped develop plays at Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Aurora Theatre, Synchronicity Theatre, 7Stages, Working Title Playwrights, Catalyst Arts Atlanta, and others, and was voted Best Local Stage Director for Creative Loafing's Best of ATL 2017. MFA: Florida State University.

4:48 x 2018 is Saturday, July 14 in the Theater Lab of the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Readings are free and open to the public and begin at 4 p.m. For more information, visit the 448plays.tumblr.com.