Djerassi Play puts Relationships under the Microscope

Year of the Arts logoIntimate details about the private lives of public people is nothing new today. We expect gossip with our news and weather. Truth, of course, is irrelevant. Carl Djerassi sets “Foreplay” in the late 1960s, when such voyeurism was less common. He chooses the complicated relationships of four real-life German intellectuals—Theodor and Gretel Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt—to drive the intriguing, suspenseful and risqué plot. As an ambitious (and fictitious) graduate student turns to blackmail to secure publication of her book, some secrets are revealed, while others go up in smoke.  UW-Madison Department of Theatre & Drama MFA students, under the direction of Patrick Sims, associate professor of acting and head of the undergraduate acting specialist program, eloquently exposed the all-too-human side of these intense 20th century thinkers.

Carl Djerassi, Stanford University emeritus professor of chemistry, was awarded both the National Medal of Science for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive, “The Pill,” and the National Medal of Technology for promoting new approaches to insect control. Djerassi has received 24 honorary doctorates and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts, the Royal Society (London) and many other academies. For the past 20 years, Djerassi has turned to fiction writing, primarily science-in-fiction. He has written five novels, poetry, an autobiography and memoir and numerous plays that have been performed around the world.

Carl Djerassi at reception

Professor Carl Djerassi greets guests at the reception prior to the staged reading of his drama "Foreplay" performed by graduate students in the Department of Theatre and Drama.

In 1997, Djerassi established the Djerassi /Middlebrook Fellowship in Creative Writing at UW-Madison. This fellowship honors Djerassi’s late wife, poet and author Diane Middlebrook. It provides assistance to a graduate student completing a first book.  In 2007, he established the Djerassi Fellowship in Playwriting. A graduate writing student is encouraged and supported in writing a work of literary value for community performance and discussion. In addition to his front row seat for the performance of “Foreplay,” Djerassi met with faculty and students in the creative writing program.

Illuminate: Year of the Arts, which runs through August 2011, spotlights the breadth, depth, power and purpose of artistic exploration and expression at UW-Madison. More than 300 performances, exhibits, symposia, public events, publications, distinguished visiting speakers and online resources will celebrate the many ways the arts help us see differently, and see more.