A One-On-One Conversation with Playwright Carolyn Gage

Coming to stage at Powerstories Theatre on February 24-March 12, with global live streams on March 4 and 11, is the world premiere of the true story about neurodivergent, gender-nonconforming Nobel-prize-winning geneticist Dr. Barbara McClintock.

Written by Carolyn Gage, In McClintock’s Corn is set entirely in a cornfield. It examines Dr. McClintock’s work in maize genetics and her relationship with her companion/partner Harriet Creighton. It tells the story of Dr. McClintock’s revolutionary quest to understand diversity in nature and to reframe “deviance” as an expression of natural variance.

Gage is a neurodivergent playwright, performer, director, and activist. The author of several collections of lesbian and feminist-themed plays, over seventy plays, musicals, and one-woman shows, she specializes in non-traditional roles for women, especially those reclaiming famous lesbians whose stories have been distorted or erased from history.

In 2022, In McClintock’s Corn was a National Finalist for the Jane Chambers Award, sponsored by the Women in Theatre Program of the Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE).

In 1923, Dr. Barbara McClintock received her BSC in botany at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, an MS two years later, and a Ph.D. in 1927. After completing her Ph.D., she continued her work in cytology and genetics. Dr. McClintock started her career at Cornell when women could not get research or teaching jobs above the lowest level of associate or full professorships. Though she faced discrimination throughout her life, she accomplished incredible advances in her field that have become molecular biology and genetics staples. Dr. McClintock became the first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her maize (corn) genetics research.

Gage stressed how excited she was to introduce patrons to the scientist Dr. McClintock and tell the decades-long non-traditional love story with her partner Harriet Creighton.

“I want people to know about this woman, her work, and her relationship with Harriet, one of the few people who understood her work. I want to lift up that friendship, lift up same-sex intimacy. I also finished the play before I understood she was autistic. And the year I finished it, I also was diagnosed as autistic. And I’m like, well, that’s no wonder: her life made so much sense to me. So I wanted to put autism kind of front and center and show what it looks like to do intimacy when one partner is neurotypical, and the other partner is autistic. It’s a different trajectory. They customized their intimacy to accommodate the fact that one was neurotypical and one was from the spectrum. It’s a remarkable love story that crosses five decades. I don’t believe anything in Barbara’s life would have been the same if it hadn’t been for Harriet Creighton. Having just one person who sees who you are and is always there is absolutely key.”

Powerstories Theatre is located at 2105 W Kennedy Blvd. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for students, seniors, and the military. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. To get more information and purchase tickets, visit powerstories.com/in-mcclintocks-corn.

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