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The Sequence
A Staged Reading
by Paul Mullin

Performed at the Theater of the First Amendment
of George Mason University, Fairfax campus
as part of an annual event called
"Sequencing the Genome: Creating an Industry and a Workforce"
which is put on by the Bio IT Coalition

This play, written by our own AudieMcCall, was directed by Rick Davis. Mr. Davis also provided the on stage visual effects for the production. See, this was a "reading" of a script. Sounds dry, doesn't it? Quite the opposite. The four actors, each identified by name and a colored ribbon merely sat or stood in place and read Paul's words with occasional boosts from Mr. Davis in terms of visual aids (in the form of tinker-toys and ribbons modeling DNA). But the WORDS! The words worked! The actors had rehearsed; a staged reading does include acting but it is mostly verbal tone and facial expression that serve to animate. Props, action, costume, movement are minimal to non existent. The words have to be compelling enough to hold attention in that minimalistic setting. In The Sequence, they are.

The play is the story of 2 real life characters and 2 fictionalized characters. From real life we have Francis Collins - played by Frank Robinson and Craig Venter - played by John Leslie. Dr. Collins and Dr. Venter collaborated as well as competed in what turned into the race to sequence the human genome. The other 2 characters were a reporter, Ruth - played by Lisa Nanni-Messegee and her mother, Eleanor - played by Ilona Dulaski (who died of a heritable form of breast cancer). The reporter investigates and to some degree influences the process of the science...as does the media in real life. The mother influences the daughter, both with her cultural heritage and with her genetic potential...as do all parents. Paul pointed out in the question and answer session after the play that the mother gave a focus to the human interest behind the science, the reason we care and an example of the way humanity can benefit from sequencing the human genome.

Science was part of the story; how genetic sequencing is done and what uses it can be put to. The motivations for doing science, and reporting, and parenting all threaded through. Politics, economics, love and avarice all played their parts, just as they do in life.

So, the play was wonderful and will continue to be wonderful when produced elsewhere but indulge me now in the other story of the evening. Paul invited us to attend as his guests. Doyle and I mingled in our jeans with big suits of Law, Business, IT, Theater and Biology. Doyle found a politician to lobby, I found a pharmaceutical developer to discuss the market for galactogogues. IWSTF, of course, already knew the Big Cheese from another social circle and was there, in power suit, ready to talk the talk. Maylith arrived late, having once again fought traffic and harrassment to dispense treats. The playwright fielded questions about play-writing and meeting-strangers-from-the-Internet with equal aplomb. All in all, an evening of culture, fun and frolic.

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