Vol 8. Issue 12 / April 7, 2008

The Mobility Pond Makes a Splash

By Mika Ono

To be or not to be? That is no longer a question for the Scripps Research Institute theater group, The Mobility Pond. It has come down firmly on the side of existence, slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and all.

So far, fortune has been kind to the group, which is still celebrating the success of its latest production. The production, consisting of four one-act comedies, drew a large and enthusiastic audience from the California campus.

"We produced a good show," says Research Programmer Guillaume Vareille, the founder of The Mobility Pond who is also one of its lead actors. "The audience had a good time, had a good laugh, and enjoyed seeing people they knew on stage also having a good time."

"It was fun—tiring, but well worth it," says Administrative Assistant Carol Taylor, who directed the show. "Now all that's left is the 'post-mortem party'—that's what it's called in theater—where cast and crew get together and talk about what worked, what didn't work, and how to fix any problems."

A lot of problems were already worked out by the time the show hit the stage. Most of these had to do with the logistics of working around the actors' other serious commitments--running experiments, attending lab meetings, and writing scientific papers and grant applications, to name a few. After an early attempt to produce a full-length play ran amok, the group hit on the idea of producing shorter pieces so rehearsals could be staggered on different days of the week depending on participants' availability.

That formula stuck, and resulted in the group's first production, "Five Short Plays for the Attention Deficient," in the spring of 2007. Encouraged by the favorable outcome (which included an encore performance a few days after the debut), members immediately regrouped for the recent show in late February 2008, which they called "Four Slightly Longer Short Plays (Still for the Attention Deficient)."

Both productions were co-sponsored by the Scripps Research Society of Fellows, which provided funding for costumes, as well as the all-important snacks and beverages on show nights.

Out of the Primordial Soup

The idea for the Scripps Research theater group was born in 2005, shortly after Vareille arrived in San Diego from Switzerland for his job as a research programmer in the Molecular Graphics group. Having discovered his love of theater, especially performing monologues, a few years earlier, he looked in vain for a community theater group to join in the San Diego area.

"Finally, I thought, 'Well, if I can't find one, I'll just have to start one,'" he says. "I figured since there were 3,000 or so people at Scripps, I would find others who wanted to join me."

Indeed, when he sent out an email on the Scripps Research Classifieds listserve, he received some two dozen responses.

The idea from the start was to have an all-inclusive group. "Young or old, beginner or experienced, foreign accent or not, if you want to play, you'll play," he says. "The only requirement is commitment--and that's a big one. Theater pretty much has to be your primary hobby if you are going to participate, because other people depend on you."

It wasn't long before Vareille realized that the group would benefit from having an official director. Another email on the campus Classifieds list produced a response from Taylor, who has a master's degree in theater and years of experience in community productions. Vareille notes that Taylor has been key to the productions' success; while different groups of actors have met one night a week to rehearse, Taylor has managed all the rehearsals, four nights a week.

The discovery of a stage manager, "Annie M.," also with a bounty of experience in theater, was also a boon to the shows' quality.

Others with billing on the program for "Four Slightly Longer Plays (Still for the Attention Deficient)" include: John Abair Jr., Géza Ambrus-Aikelin, Leonard Armstrong, Amelia Brown, Judith Coppinger, Eyrine Ezzili, Noelle Griffin, Raffael Hoffmann, Tilak Jain, Daniel Jennings, Georgia Kefala, Ondrej Libiger, Dinah Loerke, Michela Mancarelli, Valentina Marchetti, Lilit Movsisyan, and "Blair S."

"It has been a great experience," notes Ambrus-Aikelin, a postdoc in the Gerace lab who acted in both of The Mobility Pond productions. "You get to know people from other labs, and from a different perspective than attending seminars together. It's a good complement to the scientific work. You know, I wouldn't often wear a toga for the lab."

Early on, Vareille chose the name The Mobility Pond for the group as a reference to a comment Darwin made about life first being sparked in "some warm little pond." The group has certainly nurtured some positive transformations, providing a venue for the expression of a reservoir of talent and creativity.

"Now if someone would start a singing group," Vareille comments, "then I'd be really happy."

For more information on participating in The Mobility Pond, contact Vareille at vareille@scripps.edu.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu







Guillaume Vareille and Judith Coppinger step into character for
the latest Mobility Pond production.