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An Immaculate Misconception: Science in Theater

February 12, 2016

The spring 2016 theater season was off to an early start on Tuesday, Feb. 9 as a cast of three AUBG theater veterans took the stage in a production of "An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction."

The play, penned by Carl Djerassi, tells the predicament of Melanie Laidlaw. Pushing forty, in love with a married man, and on the brink of discovering a cure for male infertility, she decides to take the matters into her own hands – and womb. What ensues is a somber comedy about medical ethics, gender politics and parenthood.  

“It is the first play with elements of science in it that I have ever seen and I think this combination of science, sex, and family worked really well” said Jane Toumar, a member of the audience.

Directed by Nedyalko Delchev and Denitsa Pashova, the cast – consisting of Tamar Rukhadze, Ivaylo Gatev, Aleksandr Soloviov, and Ilian Velev– presented a sneak-preview of their production back in October of last year, when the ABF Theater became the Dr. Carl Djerassi Theater Hall. Djerassi’s play "Insufficiency" was among the first productions staged at the theater – with the author in attendance, and several months later, he was awarded the AUBG Doctor of Humane Letters degree after his address to the graduating class of 2013.

An Austrian-born American scientist with Bulgarian roots, Djerassi is internationally acclaimed for his contribution to the creation of the oral contraceptive pills. Beside his scientific work, Djerassi is renowned for his five novels – the genre of which he called science-in-fiction, and a number of plays – which he referred to as science-in-theater. Both, his novels and drama are characterized by the placement of real science and technology (and on occasion the achievements of prominent scientists) in fictional settings.

A number of Djerassi’s works are also notably feminist, centering around the stories of strong, independent women. Melanie Laidlaw of An Immaculate Misconception is certainly one such woman, and Rukhadze’s impressive performance truly did her justice.

The acting was great,” Toumar said, “I was especially impressed by the charming actress who played Melanie.”

“It was an honor to perform a Djerassi play in a theater hall dedicated to him” said Aleksandr Soloviov – a graduating senior – for whom An Immaculate Misconception was an adieu to the AUBG theater.

“It was my last performance – my eighth play,” Soloviov said, “I’m glad that the people who came appreciated it, we had a lot of fun staging it.”

Story by Ana Devdariani
Photography by Tsvetiana Zaharieva

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