Lila Rose Kaplan

Lila Rose Kaplan
Writer's Bio: 

Lila Rose Kaplan is a bicoastal playwright and science lover.   She had been produced Off-Broadway and all over the country. Lila Rose recently won the National Science Award in Playwriting from The Kennedy Center for her play, Biography of a Constellation.   Dramatists Play Service recently published Lila Rose’s provocative play Wildflower.   Lila Rose went to Brown University and received her M.F.A. from UC San Diego.   To learn more about her plays please visit  

Lila Rose has long been fascinated by the collision of art and science.     In high school, she turned her physics notes into poems, which were published by her high school’s poetry magazine.  The beauty of scientific language still amazes her today. She is intrigued by the way that science and art both strive to discover how things work.    Lila Rose’s play Biography of a Constellation was honored last spring at The Kennedy CenterThe National Science in Playwriting Award is adjudicated by Alan Lightman and given out once every two years.  Biography of a Constellation explores the legacy of a group of women at Harvard at the turn of the last century who were called “The Computers.” They helped create the first modern astronomical maps and they made findings that still inform how we think about astronomy today.  Lila Rose wants to create more plays like Biography of a Constellation, which open up the lives and work of scientists to non-science based audiences in ways that are accessible and theatrically imaginative.

While at KITP, Lila Rose will continue to develop science-based plays. Currently, she is working on a play about quantum entanglement.  The play uses twins to embody entanglement.   It is a beautiful starting point to explore a fascinating set of concepts and a way to examine how we stay connected to each other and how we don’t.  She is interested in interviewing KITP scientists and staff members to learn about their passions as possible jumping off points for other new plays.   While at KITP, Lila Rose also will lead seminars about Science and Storytelling.  She will open up her toolbox from theatre to brainstorm how narrative and visual storytelling can contribute to scientific talks.  


Dec. 10 - Storytelling and Science Seminar

How to Make Good Science into a Great Talk - Learn Secrets from Theatre - An Interactive Workshop

An audience can reduce even the most accomplished scientist to unfamiliar nerves and a mumbled delivery, as it has many an actor on stage. The most memorable and effective speakers seem to know what to do when they speak. In this workshop you will learn tools for working with body and voice that will help you become a more effective speaker. You will learn strategies for communicating enthusiasm and passion for your work. You will leave with new approaches to giving talks that will be a pleasure for both you and your audiences.


UCSB Theatre Professor Anne Torsiglieri
NCEAS Postdoc Jarrett Byrnes

Oct. 29 - Storytelling and Science Seminar

How to hold onto your audience at a conference or a cocktail party

Do you ever worry about losing your audience? What can you do about that guy in the back falling asleep during your talk? You can steal tools from theatre to create a dynamic and engaging talk. KITP Playwright-In-Residence Lila Rose Kaplan will unpack story structure, dramatic tension, and the importance of mystery. She will demystify what keeps audiences paying attention and why they check out. This seminar will make narrative accessible and even fun.

Parting Comments: 

Last year, I learned about the concept of entanglement and it moved me. The idea that two particles could be linked across a great distance was exciting and somehow felt very human. I wondered if I could write a play about it. As I was noodling on this idea, an opportunity to spend some time at the KITP as a Writer-In-Residence presented itself. So, I decided to go on an adventure and investigate. I planned to do interviews with physicists familiar with entanglement and see if I found any sparks that would lead to a play.

My time at the KITP was reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole into a world where everything is recognizable, but nothing is familiar.  She can’t quite figure out the rules or even how to communicate even though everyone is speaking English. Eventually through hard work and a few helpful souls she learns how to communicate and even succeed in Wonderland. Initially, the scientists at the KITP were puzzled by and a little suspicious of a playwright in their midst. And I don’t blame them. I was from a planet outside of their comfort zone. I was asking them questions about their work, but I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to understand the answers. Even at talks for non-scientific audiences, I was still lost. I’ve written plays based in science before, in fact I won a big award for my play about astronomy, but I had never attempted a subject as technical and complicated as theoretical physics. I started to worry that I was in over my head. 

Then I gave my first talk, “How to hold onto your audience at a conference or a cocktail party.” I shared tools and tricks from dramatic storytelling that help keep an audience engaged. The talk gave me my way into the KITP community. In the weeks following, KITP scientists approached me to ask questions and bounce around ideas. I was becoming more comfortable with the language and concepts of entanglement and the scientists at KITP were becoming more comfortable having a playwright in their workspace.  By the time I gave my second talk, “Giving a Great Talk:  How to Use Your Body and Voice,” I felt like a part of the community.

Every week I would go to afternoon tea and introduce myself to at least 3 people. Is would ask them about their work and what got them into physics.  It was always interesting to meet scientists from all over the world and listen to their descriptions of their work and their life stories. A few physicists were very generous with their time.  They sat with me and broke entanglement into pieces small enough for a non-physicist to digest. I am grateful to them. I asked them a million questions and they were very patient with me. By the end of these interviews, I found my way into writing a play about entanglement. After my residency ended, I used the following months to write an initial draft of the play. 

Currently, Launchpad at UCSB is developing my play ENTANGLED. There will be a production of it at UCSB in March of 2012.  I am working with a wonderful creative team and they are very excited about the play. The play explores the concept of entanglement through a human lens using sets of twins.

A few weeks ago, I brought my production team to see the KITP. They were very impressed and quite inspired by the building and the purpose behind it.
My time at the KITP gave me new language, new tools, and new ways to collaborate. Interdisciplinary work is hard and requires a lot of translation and patience.  I am grateful to the KITP for inviting a playwright into their unique space to observe, question and imagine.