Mrs Mac and the Art of Rhythm

CSC was awarded a Royal Society / British Association COPUS (Committee of Public Understanding of Science) award in  1998 to produce Mrs Mac and the Art of Rhythm. In recognition of the contribution that young women can and need to make in the fields of science and engineering,  the play  provided some 120 fourth/fifth year school students (males and females) with real-life models of creative women in science. The play was written jointly by the Director, Caroline Baillie, also a lecturer in Materials Science at Imperial College, and Solange Kershaw. The play was about radio, the communication medium of Florence’s time. Solange and Caroline wrote the play using the internet, todays’ communication medium, as they were located in Australia and the UK respectively, at the time of writing. Solange, as well as being a composer is an acoustics engineer. She used her fees for writing the play to travel to the UK, in order to take part in the performances. Both writers, being engineers and artists, were thus able to act as themselves in the play within a play. The school students were thus able to watch the process of two engineers producing a theatrical play about a female engineer.

 

The play was followed by an interactive workshop, aimed at helping the students draw some more from the play to reflect on. The actors, several of which were also scientists or engineers, as members of the Imperial Fringe Theatre Company, facilitated discussion amongst the students as detailed below. The whole evening proved very successful in achieving its aims of communicating ideas about engineering in a positive way to school students who might not otherwise be exposed to such discussions and who would possibly be turned off by a standard presentation from a University. Although there was a focus on girls, the majority of audience was male and this did not prove to be a problem. Indeed the awareness raised amongst young male students was felt to be very beneficial. Alongside raising their awareness of gender issues in engineering, there are also many male students who are put off engineering by its negative image.

Performances were held in schools throughout London during 1998