Photograph 51, by Anna Ziegler, tells the historical story of Dr. Rosalind Franklin, the female scientist who’s knowledge of X-Ray technology developed the first clear image of DNA. Simultaneously, Ziegler’s adaptation follows a trio of male scientists, Dr. James Watson, Dr. Francis Crick, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins who notoriously “stole” Franklin’s photo to create the premiere model of DNA, thus winning themselves the Nobel Prize.
It was important to this production that the space evoke a feeling of surveillance, a sensation that this chorus of men were looking down on Dr. Franklin as she ventured toward the rare discovery that would forever change science. This sensation is a feeling all too familiar to marginalized individuals who find themselves suddenly placed in a position of power and leadership. “Glass Cliff” is a phrase used today to describe this phenomena. This term describes instances when women (and currently LGBTQ & BIPOC individuals) are put into high positions during moments of high stress and while are expected to succeed are set up to fail.
To illustrate this idea through design, we looked at spaces where surveillance was built into the architecture and ultimately landed on the institutional shape of prison panopticons. These circular spaces were designed as a way to observe prisoners from a single citadel. It was from that foundation that I designed Dr. Franklin’s lab and crafted a space that felt cage and prison-like. The series of windows highlighted a notion of display while the moiré of intersecting mullions crafted a dizzying array of geometry and wonder that gave Paul Deziel’s projections a base to work off of.
My design captures the rareness of discovery and inspiration while also acknowledging the rarity of opportunity and equity for women in science and leadership.
Playwright – Anna Ziegler
Director – Vanessa Stalling
Scenic Design – Arnel Sancianco
Costume Design – Meika Van Der Ploeg
Lighting Design – Keith Parham
Projection Design – Paul Deziel
Sound Design – Jeffrey Levin