Black Theater Artists Are Helping Shakespeare Speak To More Diverse Audiences

30 Jul
Brian A. Simmons as MacDuff, in Theatre of the Living Word’s production of MACBETH.

There’s been momentum lately toward a color-conscious rethink of Shakespeare, with arguments from academia, professional theater and engaged readers all intertwining. In February, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race, edited by Ayanna Thompson, took its place on the bookshelf of mainstream Shakespeare studies. Little is working on a book called White People and Shakespeare for Arden Shakespeare, a series as canonical as it gets when it comes to scholarly interpretations of the Bard. The four parts of a streaming “radio play” of Richard II produced last year by New York’s Public Theater include prologues in which Thompson and others examine how race intersects with the work. Shakespeare is still the most produced playwright in the U.S. every year, with no one else a close second. And the Classical theater world, plus the acting schools and training programs that feed it, often reflect white-dominated, ableist hierarchies present elsewhere in professional theater. “Going into grad school, it was very daunting when an audition for any type of classical show came up,” said Jacqueline Thompson, a Black actress who played Lear’s daughter Regan in the King Lear at St. Louis Shakespeare Festival in June. “I almost was certain: I won’t be cast in that. Or, I won’t get a lead in that.” But good experiences with Shakespeare and Shakespeare instruction early on can seed exciting careers. Cofield said he didn’t think the work spoke to him, as a Black man, until an acting teacher challenged him to find personal connections with the text. John Douglas Thompson, as a beginning actor, encountered a nourishing environment that set the stage for his success.

Black Theater Artists Are Helping Shakespeare Speak To More Diverse Audiences : NPR

Photos: Argentina Lagoon Turns Pink After Apparent Chemical Leak

26 Jul

Pablo Lada, an environmental activist who lives in the area, told AFP that he blamed the government: “Those who should be in control are the ones who authorize the poisoning of people.” He said the lagoon’s color changed last week, and that it was still pink as of Sunday.


PBS to rebroadcast 1993 documentary on Black Wall Street

4 Feb

In 1993, the PBS series “American Experience” aired “Goin’ Back to T-Town,” an hourlong documentary that gave an overview to the rise, destruction and resurrection of the north Tulsa neighborhood that had earned the title “America’s Black Wall Street.”As the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre approaches, “American Experience” will rebroadcast the documentary at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 on most PBS stations.The film, produced by Sam Pollard and Joyce Vaughn, was written by Tulsa native Carmen Fields, a journalist and media consultant now based in Boston, Massachusetts. Actor Ossie Davis is the film’s narrator.Cameo George, executive producer of “American Experience,” said in a statement: “‘Goin’ Back to T-Town’ is a film that was made for the series nearly 30 years ago, and yet it remains shockingly relevant today. Being able to pull this film out of the vault for rebroadcast is a special opportunity and a reminder of the unique legacy of the series.”When the film premiered in 1993, the Tulsa World’s review called it “a slick and intelligent piece of documentary filmmaking that should intrigue longtime Greenwood aficionados and newcomers to the story, alike.”That story includes pointing out that the true legacy of Greenwood was not the destruction visited upon the community in 1921, but how it had managed to thrive before and after the massacre.

Via Tulsa World

Scientists Bioprint Mini-kidneys

25 Nov

Researchers have used cutting edge technology to bioprint miniature human kidneys in the lab, paving the way for new treatments for kidney failure and possibly lab-grown transplants.The study, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and biotech company Organovo and published in Nature Materials, saw the research team also validate the use of 3D bioprinted human mini kidneys for screening of drug toxicity from a class of drugs known to cause kidney damage in people.The research showed how 3D bioprinting of stem cells can produce large enough sheets of kidney tissue needed for transplants.Like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube, extrusion-based 3D bioprinting uses a ‘bioink’ made from a stem cell paste, squeezed out through a computer-guided pipette to create artificial living tissue in a dish.MCRI researchers teamed up with San Diego based Organovo Inc to create the mini organs.MCRI Professor Melissa Little, a world leader in modelling the human kidney, first began growing kidney organoids in 2015. But this new bio-printing method is faster, more reliable and allows the whole process to be scaled up. 3D bioprinting could now create about 200 mini kidneys in 10 minutes without compromising quality, the study found.From larger than a grain of rice to the size of a fingernail, bioprinted mini-kidneys fully resemble a regular-sized kidney, including the tiny tubes and blood vessels that form the organ’s filtering structures called nephrons.Professor Little said by using mini-organs her team hope to screen drugs to find new treatments for kidney disease or to test if a new drug was likely to injure the kidney.”Drug-induced injury to the kidney is a major side effect and difficult to predict using animal studies. Bioprinting human kidneys are a practical approach to testing for toxicity before use,” she said.

Via ScienceDaily

Plastic-eating enzyme ‘cocktail’ heralds new hope for plastic waste

4 Oct
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

The scientists who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme ‘cocktail’ which can digest plastic up to six times faster.A second enzyme, found in the same rubbish dwelling bacterium that lives on a diet of plastic bottles, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plastic

PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days.

Via ScienceDaily

‘Extinct’ Elephant Shrew Resurfaces After 50 Years

26 Aug

not extinct elephant shrew - Copy.pngFor more than 50 years, the mouse-size Somali sengi was thought to be a lost species.Turns out, it wasn’t.Researchers recently spotted the Somali sengi, a kind of elephant shrew, not in Somalia — but in neighboring Djibouti.”It’s a teeny, tiny relative of an aardvark and an elephant that’s the size of a mouse,” Steven Heritage, a Duke University Lemur Center researcher who traveled to Djibouti to look for the Somali sengi, told NPR.

It has a pointy nose and large, adorable eyes and can fit in the palm of your hand.

“In science we call them charismatic microfauna, which in lay-speak translates to cute little animal,” Heritage said.

Heritage is quick to credit Djiboutians, including scientists, for the rediscovery of the Somali sengi. Though the Global Wildlife Conservation considered the creature a lost species, people in East Africa easily recognized the animal when Heritage showed them pictures of it. Heritage and his team set a live trap and, he says, it wasn’t long before a Somali sengi wandered into it.

Houssein Rayaleh, an ecologist from Djibouti, is part of the research team that identified the Somali sengi.

Ralayeh says he hopes that observing and tracking the Somali sengi will help bring more conservation efforts to the country.

“Now, the international community will have an eye on our biodiversity,” he says.

via NPR

Researchers Convert Female Mosquitoes to Nonbiting Males

16 Jul

animal antenna biology bite

Photo by on

Virginia Tech researchers have proven that a single gene can convert female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes into fertile male mosquitoes and identified a gene needed for male mosquito flight.Male mosquitoes do not bite and are unable to transmit pathogens to humans. Female mosquitoes, on the other hand, are able to bite.Female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes require blood to produce eggs, making them the prime carriers of the pathogens that cause Zika and dengue fever in humans.”The presence of a male-determining locus (M locus) establishes the male sex in Aedes aegypti and the M locus is only inherited by the male offspring, much like the human Y chromosome,” said Zhijian Tu, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”By inserting Nix, a previously discovered male-determining gene in the M locus of Aedes aegypti, into a chromosomal region that can be inherited by females, we showed that Nix alone was sufficient to convert females to fertile males. This may have implications for developing future mosquito control techniques.”These findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

via ScienceDaily

How to Decontaminate an N95 Mask in Just 3 minutes

27 Jun


Photo by CDC on

Months after mask manufacturers ramped up production of N95 masks in response to the coronavirus crisis, hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes taking care of COVID-19 patients are still facing shortages of the respirators.

Because of the lack of supply for essential workers, consumers still can’t buy the masks in many stores, despite the fact that they’re one of the best lines of defense against the virus. And as COVID-19 cases spike in many areas, the problem will get worse.The masks are only designed for a single use. But a new study shows that they can be safely decontaminated for reuse with simple tools.

While only some hospitals have fairly expensive disinfection and sterilization equipment, the process tested in the study could be used anywhere.

“Not all people who have need of an N95 mask necessarily have access to these industrial-scale disinfection processes,” says James Kirby, a professor of pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital at Harvard Medical School, and one of the authors of the study

The researchers tested an approach that uses steam generated in a microwave. Steam isn’t a new method for disinfection, but it typically involves using commercial steam bags—they’re also in short supply right now. The new method uses only commonly available household supplies.

In the study, the researchers used a rubber band to attach mesh from a produce bag to a glass container, filled the container with water, and then placed a virus-doused N95 respirator on top of the mesh. The mask was coated in MS2 phage, a virus that is harder to kill than the new coronavirus because it has a tougher outer coating, meaning that anything that destroys it will definitely work on SARS-CoV-2. The dose of virus was also higher than what a healthcare worker is likely to encounter.

“It was a good surrogate in that we could carefully quantify sort of the viral killing, if you will, and that allowed us to basically find the sweet spot for sort of the minimal amount of microwave time to reliably disinfect or inactivate this particular virus,” Kirby says

via Fast Company

Bugging Out? The 17-year cicadas are back!

25 May
magicicada septemdicem close up photo

With warm daytime weather and mild nights upon us, you may find yourself opening a window to enjoy the cool spring air. But accompanying this breeze will be a cacophonous whining like a field of out-of-tune car radios.

That can only mean one thing: the cicadas are back.

This year, that alien-like wail of the insect world will be even more pronounced, as millions of cicadas from brood IX emerge after 17 years underground.

“Communities and farms with large numbers of cicadas emerging at once may have a substantial noise issue,” predicts Eric Day, Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologist in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Hopefully, any annoyance at the disturbance is tempered by just how infrequent — and amazing — this event is.”

The scale of these emergence events is astounding, with as many as 1.5 million cicadas emerging per acre. Each periodical cicada brood covers a specific geographical region, with some areas overlapping. This year brood IX spans Southwest Virginia, parts of North Carolina, and West Virginia. People who live in these regions will experience a unique natural phenomenon that has not occurred in most of the area since 2003-04 (some of the region overlaps with Brood II, which emerged in 2013).

via Virginia Tech Daily

Photo by Michael Kropiewnicki on


Harvard Sophomore Creates Free Tutoring Service for Low-income NYC Students

24 May

Aftercohen Harvard sent students home due to the coronavirus, Ilana Cohen returned to her Park Slope home and turned her attention to her younger sister, whose Brooklyn public high school was now operating remotely as well.

The college sophomore noticed that her sister could easily access Google Classroom assignments, but had little live instruction, or the individual support and interaction that comes with it.

“It was very disheartening to see my sister’s limited access to online education compared to my own,” Cohen said. “It sort of dawned on me that it’s a very privileged position to have regular access to Zoom lectures.”

That sparked an idea: What if college students, who suddenly had more time on their hands, could help tutor city students? Starting with a Google Form posted on Facebook, Cohen and a group of organizers with roots in the city’s school system quickly began recruiting college volunteers who were willing to spend an hour a week tutoring.

Since March, that initial Google survey has gained steam as an all-volunteer organization called EduMate that has recruited about 850 college students who have signed up to provide free tutoring to over 700 students in grades K-12 across the city. The organization only serves city public school students and prioritizes those from low-income families or live in temporary housing.

The group’s organizers acknowledge that they can’t replace professional educators and only deliver one hour of training to their army of volunteer tutors. Still, they believe there is value in providing homework help in a range of subjects, test prep for college admission exams and the specialized high school test, and even advice on navigating the college admissions process.

via Chalkbeat New York