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From Orchids to Octopi

An Evolutionary Love Story

A Play Celebrating Darwin's Impact

Location

Bethesda Theatre
7719 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

A focal point of the play is an evolving mural, painted by a professional artist. Reaching a size of 28 feet wide and 10 feet high, the mural is made up of sections that move and change as the play progresses. This image is a scale mock-up of what the final mural might look like.

A focal point of the play is an evolving mural, painted by a professional artist. Reaching a size of 10 feet high and 28 feet wide, the mural is made up of sections that move and change as the play progresses. The image above is a scale mock-up of what the final mural might look like. Images below show concepts of the mural in progress.

World Premiere Show Times

Monday, March 22, 2010
7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010
10:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Following the evening performances, audience members are invited to join an open conversation with scientific experts and cast members.

Tickets

Mural in progressFor group sales or school trips, contact Alisa Machalek at 301-496-7301 or alisa.machalek@nih.gov.

Tickets are $15 at the door or in advance (with additional fees) through Ticketmaster.

School groups are free at the 10 a.m. March 23 showing. The play is most appropriate for middle and high school students. The Underground Railway Theater has created a study guide that is available at
http://centralsquaretheater.org/documents/OrchidsStudyGuide.pdf (Link no longer available)

From March 31 through May 2, 2010, the play will be performed at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Mass. For information about these performances, see http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/09-10/orchidsoctopi.html Link to external Web site. From Orchids to Octopi will then tour the country.

Play Synopsis and Background

Mural in progressThe play is a warm, witty story of an artistic couple who find themselves pregnant unexpectedly and are simultaneously pulled apart by compelling, but conflicting, professional opportunities.

As the couple's plans evolve, ordinary experiences and "pregnancy hallucinations" converge to give them—and the audience—a deeper understanding of natural selection.

Making guest appearances are the Darwin family, a carnival barker, dinosaurs, tiktaalik (the "missing link" between fish and land animals), tuberculosis and a two-headed cow named Buttercup.

Mural in progressThese fanciful characters help general audiences understand a number of scientific concepts, including random mutation, competition for resources, advantageous and neutral traits, adaptation, speciation, sexual selection, lactose tolerance, drug resistance and extinction.

The script also contains historical quotes from Charles Darwin, his wife Emma and their contemporaries.

Central to the play is an evolving mural created by a professional muralist (and in the play by the expectant mother). Made up of seven sections that move and change as the play progresses, the mural reflects the characters’ growing appreciation of evolution and displays in vivid colors the biodiversity of our world. The images here show what the mural might look like at different times during the performance.

The play is written by award-winning playwright Melinda Lopez and produced by the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT Link to external Web site (CC@MIT) in consultation with scientific experts from MIT and Harvard.

The CC@MIT is a collaboration between MIT and the Underground Railway Theater. Its mission is to create and present plays that deepen public understanding of science while providing a unique artistic and emotional experience.

Mural in progressFrom Orchids to Octopi was commissioned by the National Institutes of Health as part of its continuing celebration of Darwin's 200th birthday known as Evolution Revolution. Eleven NIH components contributed to the development of the play: NIGMS, NCRR, NHLBI, NIA, NIAID, NIEHS, NINDS, NIDCR, NIAAA, NCCAM and NIDA.

For more information, contact Alisa Machalek at 301-496-7301 or alisa.machalek@nih.gov.

This page last reviewed on November 14, 2014