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Press Release: Festival to Open with Awakening the Mind: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Oliver Sacks, June 1, 2016

For Immediate Release
May 13, 2016

2016 World Science Festival to Open with Awakening the Mind: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Oliver Sacks, June 1 at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

  • Written and Directed by John Christian Plummer (Netflix’s “Granite Flats”)
  • Designed by Tony Award-Winners 59 Productions (An American in Paris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch)
  • Produced by the World Science Festival in partnership with the Oliver Sacks Foundation

Evening Will Feature Remembrances from Brian Greene, Temple Grandin, Dr. Concetta Tomaino, John Hockenberry, and Robert Krulwich; Musical Performances by Tony Award-Winner Christine Ebersole and Celebrated Opera Singer Eric Jordan; and a Dance Piece, Awakenings, Choreographed by Aletta Collins, Scored by Tobias Picker, and Performed by Conor Doyle

The World Science Festival’s 2016 flagship New York festival will open with Awakening the Mind: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Oliver Sacks, a multimedia production combining music, images, and text to pay tribute to the extraordinary physician, best-selling author, professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine, and regular contributor to the World Science Festival. The evening will include stories from people who knew Dr. Sacks intimately—friends, colleagues, patients—as well as Dr. Sacks’ own words. Written and directed by John Christian Plummer (Netflix’s “Granite Flats,” Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics), designed by the Tony-winning team at 59 Productions (An American in Paris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), and produced by the Festival in partnership with the Oliver Sacks Foundation, Awakening the Mind will take place June 1, 8pm, at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets are $45 ($30 for students) and can be purchased at www.worldsciencefestival.com or 212.998.4941. VIP Premium tickets, including VIP seating for Awakening the Mind and a World Science Festival Planetary Level Membership, are available for $100. NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is located at 566 LaGuardia Place in Manhattan.

The New York Times called Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015, “a poet laureate of contemporary medicine” and “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century.” Awakening the Mind will bring diverse luminaries to the stage to remember him, with stories by Brian Greene, the acclaimed physicist, author, and World Science Festival Co-Founder; Dr. Concetta Tomaino, the award-winning music therapist who partnered with Dr. Sacks in founding the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function; John Hockenberry, the Emmy- and Peabody-winning journalist and host of “The Takeaway;” and, on video, Temple Grandin, Double Helix Medal-winner, author, and title figure in Dr. Sacks’ book An Anthropologist on Mars; and Robert Krulwich, Emmy-winning co-creator and co-host of “Radiolab.” The evening will include performances by Tony-winning singer and actress Christine Ebersole and celebrated opera singer and stroke survivor Eric Jordan. The dancer Conor Doyle will perform award-winning West End choreographer Aletta Collins’ Awakenings, which features music by composer Tobias Picker. Awakening the Mind also includes excerpts of Dr. Sacks reading from his memoir On the Move, filmed and directed by Emmy-winning documentarian Ric Burns.

Tracy Day, Co-Founder and CEO of the World Science Festival, said, “We are thrilled to open the 2016 World Science Festival by celebrating Oliver Sacks, whose participation was a highlight of so many previous years’ Festivals, beginning with our inaugural edition in 2008. The depth and range of his curiosity and insight, and the artistry with which he engaged people in scientific ideas, will always be an inspiration to us.”

Kate Edgar, Executive Director of the Oliver Sacks Foundation, remarked, “The World Science Festival has always captured the excitement and enthusiasm that Dr. Sacks himself felt about science, nature, and the world around us, and we are honored that so many good friends and hugely talented people have come together to produce this tribute.”

Awakening the Mind will be a global celebration. The World Science Festival and the Oliver Sacks Foundation are inviting fans outside New York City to organize events in their communities with screenings of the World Science Festival’s livestream (at http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/live) and discussions featuring guest speakers.

Awakening the Mind is the latest in a series of original World Science Festival stage productions. It follows Light Falls, a theatrical exploration of Einstein’s journey toward the General Theory of Relativity, written and performed by Festival Co-founder Brian Greene, composed by Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”), designed by 59 Productions, and directed by Scott Faris (Walking with Dinosaurs). Following first previews of the work in the 2015 World Science Festival, Light Falls returns for a sold-out engagement June 3 at NYU Skirball Center. Previous World Science Festival productions include Dear Albert (2014), Alan Alda’s staged reading about Einstein’s life and work, performed by Paul Rudd, Cynthia Nixon, and Francesca Faridany; Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics (2013), written by Greene and performed by Greene and a cast of actors; and Icarus at the Edge of Time, which Greene co-created with composer Philip Glass and playwright David Henry Hwang. Since its premiere in the 2010 Festival, Icarus at the Edge of Time has toured to over 40 cities worldwide, including major performing arts venues such as the Southbank Centre, with performers including Liev Schreiber and John Lithgow.

About the Creative Team

John Christian Plummer (writer and director) has previously participated in the World Science Festival as director of Spooky Action: The Drama of Quantum Mechanics, with Brian Greene; Beautiful Minds: The Enigma of Genius; and several other short films. Plummer recently served as Co-Executive Producer on the new History Channel series “Join or Die with Craig Ferguson” and is currently directing Our Town for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. All three seasons of his cold war spy drama, “Granite Flats,” are on Netflix. Plummer has written for NBC, Fox, National Geographic, Discovery, MTV, Comedy Central, TBS, IFC, and Bravo.

59 Productions (designer) combines technology and art to tell amazing stories. Whether creating stage productions, museum installations, live music shows, large-scale events, or films, 59’s team generates creative and technical ideas to help realize ambitious artistic projects. 59’s creative team covers a range of disciplines, including animation, filmmaking, writing, set, sound, and lighting design. These diverse skills are combined with technical expertise and bespoke design to create exciting and innovative work for audiences of all kinds. 59 Productions designed the World Science Festival production Light Falls in 2015. In recent years, 59 Productions has created the video design for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A in London, and Lighting the Sails of the Sydney Opera House for the Vivid Live festival. Previous work in New York includes the video design for the recent Broadway productions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and An American in Paris, and for the Metropolitan Opera production of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys.

The World Science Festival (producer and presenter) gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Through discussions, debates, theatrical works, interactive explorations, musical performances, intimate salons, and major outdoor experiences, the Festival takes science out of the laboratory and into the streets, parks, museums, galleries and premier performing arts venues of New York City and beyond.

Hailed a “new cultural institution” by The New York Times, the Festival has featured Alan Alda, Joshua Bell, Chuck Close, Glenn Close, Sylvia Earle, Philip Glass, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stephen Hawking, John Hockenberry, Bill T. Jones, Charlie Kaufman, Mary-Claire King, Eric Lander, Richard Leakey, John Lithgow, Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Oliver Sacks, Liev Schreiber, Anna Deavere Smith, Julie Taymor, E.O. Wilson, and Nobel Laureates David Baltimore, Steven Chu, David Gross, Eric Kandel, Dudley R. Herschbach, Roald Hoffmann, Leon Lederman, Paul Nurse, John C. Mather, Saul Perlmutter, William Phillips, Adam Riess, F. Sherwood Rowland, Horst Störmer, Jack W. Szostak, Gerard ‘t Hooft, Harold Varmus, James Watson, Steven Weinberg, Carl Wieman, and Frank Wilczek, among many others luminaries in science and the arts.

The annual live, weeklong New York Festivals, which launched in 2008, have collectively drawn more than a million and a half visitors, with millions more viewing the programs online. The World Science Festival’s original musical and theatrical works tour nationally and internationally, and March 2016 marked the launch of World Science Festival Brisbane. World Science U is the World Science Foundation’s online education arm where students and lifelong learners can dive more deeply through artfully produced digital education content presented by world-renowned scientists.

The World Science Festival is a production of the World Science Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in New York City.

Connect with the World Science Festival

Web: http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/worldsciencefestival
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WorldSciFest
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/worldscifest/

Press Contacts

Blake Zidell and John Wyszniewski
Blake Zidell & Associates
718.643.9052, blake@blakezidell.com, john@blakezidell.com