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TONIGHT, AT ARTISPHERE, as an extension of the storytelling boom DC is experiencing, Two Storytelling Groups (One from NYC, One from D.C.) WILL COLLIDE ONSTAGE. This is the first collaboration of two storytelling organizations from different cities on a story show in the Washington, D.C., area. Everyone involved (see lineup below) will tell true-life stories (some funny, some harrowing) about what happens when science collides with politics (from the personal to the global).

To preview we had Ben Lillie (the director of The Story Collider) do a chat Guy Schaffer is a writer and storyteller who is in that show. Until yesterday, he and Ben had never met. So, they sat down to figure out just what they were doing.

BL: So, we’ve never met before today, and now we’re doing a show. I run this show every month, and you’re in it for the first time. Why don’t you give the pitch? What do you know about the show you’re doing?

GS: I know that there’s going to be a bunch of experienced storytellers, and a few novices. A lot of scientists and scientifically-minded individuals telling stories about their own personal experience of science and trying explore the relationship between the scientific and the personal and emotional — and, in this show, political.

BL: Damn, is that what I sound like?

GS: Yeah, that was basically what you told me when I signed up for it.

BL: OK, well I need to work on my pitch.

GS : Glad to help.

BL: Someone said you write a column called “The Mad Scientist”?

GS: I used to have a column where I wrote about science news from the point of view of a mad scientist who wants to use that research to take over the world. Now, I look at the entire field of, say, growing organs in petri dishes, or creating stars in laboratories.

BL: What?

GS: What?

BL: What? Stars? What?

GS: Yeah, people haven’t made stars yet, but they’ve mimicked the basic form of the plasma beam that emitted by quasars. And there’s a group in Wisconsin that’s working on creating a spinning plasma thing that generates magnetic fields, like the thing in the center of the sun.

BL: Are they going to use it to blackmail the US government?

GS : That’s what it sounds like!!

BL: Are you going to take over the world in your story?

GS: Take over the world?  Naw, not at all.  It’s about me being evil, though.  So there are thematic similarities. What about you? I’ve heard you were not a scientist and then you were and now you’re not?

BL: Yeah, well the only time I wasn’t a scientist before I was a scientist I wasn’t a real human being — which is to say before college. I like to say that I started my life by getting a Ph.D. in theoretical high energy physics.

GS: I might be going into some stereotypes, but that doesn’t sound like the most personal science.

BL: God no. That was the problem.

GS: And so you left?

BL: Yeah, long story, which I should tell on a stage in front of a large audience some time.

GS: Not just alone on a stage?  So wait, how’d you make the transition from antisocial physicist to storyteller?

BL: The normal way: I moved to New York and took an improv class with the Upright Citizens Brigade. That led to The Moth. (Which is awesome. Everyone go download their podcast right now. Seriously.)

GS: Oh I’ll go do that, don’t worry.  So you’ve told a few stories on the moth?

BL: I am, in fact, a Moth StorySLAM champion.

GS: Oh wow, you sould have introduced yourself as such.

BL: Yeah, I always forget to open conversations with that.

GS: Maybe put some letters after your name.  Ben Lillie, MSSC.

BL: Ben Lillie, Ph.D. MsSC. That’s not pretentious at all. Sweet.


The Story Collider and Story League present seven stories about the intersection of science and politics.
Where: Artisphere – 1101 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA
When: 8pm (doors @ 7:30)
Tickets: $10 http://storycollider.org/shows/2011-08-11

The lineup includes: Doug Fields (author, The Other Brain), Susanna Speier (The Huffington Post, Scientific American), Guy Schaffer (LiveScience.com), Adam Ruben (DC Improv, Science Magazine), Ben Lillie (The Story Collider, TED), Caitlin Brodnick (Mimsy, Upright Citizens Brigade), and more!
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