Argonne National Laboratory

Users Week 2008
May 4-8, 2008

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Bernal’s Picasso

An Illustrated Play in One Act
by Cele Abad-Zapatero and Jill Campbell
Based on an original idea and script by Cele Abad-Zapatero
Directed by Gregory Gerhard

a unique excursion into the Science-Art domain

Intro | Production | Background | Science on Stage
Acknowledgments | Sponsors | Biographical Notes

C:\Personal\Chicago Dramatists- Assignments\picasso.TIF
A unique artistic record of the meeting between Pablo Picasso and crystallographer J.D. Bernal was left behind on the wall in Bernal's flat. The mural was preserved, is now owned by the Wellcome Trust (UK), and was recently installed in the Wellcome Trust headquarters. Mural photo provided by Prof. Rex Palmer, Birkbeck College, London.

To celebrate Users Week 2008, Argonne National Laboratory, the Advanced Photon Source, the International Union of Crystallography, and the APS Users Organization invite you to experience a unique excursion into the science-art domain: the premiere performance of a play entitled Bernal's Picasso on Sunday, May 4, 2008, at 3:30 pm.

Striking parallels can be drawn between the professional efforts of research scientists and artists. Both pursue their professions with strong dedication, drive, and imagination. Although the artist's work often has a very public face and that of a scientist is less visible, accomplishments through research also have a significant and far-reaching impact on society. The play Bernal's Picasso provides a framework in which to explore the relationship between the sciences and the arts.

The play centers on the historic meeting between Pablo Picasso and scientist John Desmond Bernal on November 12, 1950, in Bernal's flat at Birkbeck College , London. Bernal, the most charismatic crystallographer of his generation, was an inspiration and mentor to contemporary iconic figures such as Francis Crick, Max Perutz, Dorothy Hodgkin, Aaron Klug, Rosalind Franklin, and many others.

What brought Picasso and Bernal together? What did they talk about? Crystallography and art? Politics? The tribulations and romantic problems in their lives? Answers to these questions and others form the texture of the play. Through this dramatic structure, the play attempts to provide a forum for dialog and discussion of the connections and differences between the sciences and the arts, the origins of molecular biology, and related themes.

About the Production


W.L. Bragg

Aaron Christensen*

J.B.J. Fourier

Brooks Darah*

J.D. Bernal

Stephen Spencer*

Pablo Picasso

Vincent P. Mahler


Margueritte Hammersley*

Rosalind E. Franklin

Kirsten D’Aurelio


Lisa Butterfield


John Walski


Derek Roberts, Matthew Kelly, Andrea Phillips, Emily Rogers


Audiovisual and tech cues

Scott Pillsbury

* Member of Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.


A social gathering in London: the unveiling of the Picasso mural at its most recent location, the headquarters of the Wellcome Trust, on January 14, 2008.


Pablo Picasso (1881–1973): Spanish artist and one of the most widely recognized fi gures in twentieth-century art. Picasso is best known for co-founding the Cubist movement.

John D. Bernal (1901–1971): Charismatic crystallographer who together with W.L. Bragg, Dorothy Crowfoot, and others developed the techniques of X-ray diffraction to be applied to biological materials. Bernal was well known socially in England for his left-wing politics and social and peace activism.

Sir William Lawrence Bragg (1890–1971): Director of the Royal Institution in London. With his father, W.H. Bragg, he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1915 at the age of 25, making him the youngest person ever to win this award. Bragg was a pioneer and world expert in the use of X-ray diffraction for the determination of the atomic structure of matter.

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768–1830): Mathematician, physicist and member of the French Academy of Sciences. His memoire or report to the Academy discussing the transmission and distribution of heat in solid bodies had a tremendous infl uence in the future development of physics and mathematics. The mathematical theory and description of crystallography as a science is based on the mathematical ideas of Fourier.

Rosalind E. Franklin (1920–1958): An investigator of the highest caliber who worked at King’s College (London) for two years using X-ray diffraction to analyze fi bers of DNA, the genetic material of all living organisms. Her experimental results and data were critical for the elucidation of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick, which was published in the scientifi c journal Nature in 1953. Her contribution, her character, and personality have been the object of controversy ever since Watson’s personal account of this discovery (The Double Helix) was published in 1968. Her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1958 deprived her of the Nobel Prize and the subsequent honors that poured over Nobel winners Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins.

Background on the Production

This production derives from an original script entitled Picasso Meets Crystallography written by Cele Abad-Zapatero. The purpose of the original script was to communicate the concepts of crystallography to the lay public, pay homage to the pioneers of structural biology, and improve the dialog between the sciences and the arts among scientists, artists, and the public at large. Murray Gibson, Susan Strasser, and Richard Fenner from the Advanced Photon Source suggested that the play could be presented as a part of Argonne Users Week, and a plan evolved to seek funding for this purpose. Following the advice of Russ Tutterow of Chicago Dramatists, Cele connected with Gregory Gerhard and Jill Campbell, and the three of them have collaborated to adapt the original concept into the present production. Along the way, Gerhard suggested the adding an additional component to the project: a documentary filmed around the play, which would extend and reinforce the initial objectives of the play.

The original script for Picasso Meets Crystallography has been read at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, December, 14, 2007 (sponsored by the faculty and students of the Center); the University of Zaragoza, Spain, March 6, 2008 (sponsored by Prof. Larry Falvello and Dra. Millar Tomas); and Parc Cientific de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, March 14, 2008 (sponsored by Dra. Alicia Guasch and Dr. Ignacio Fita).

Science on Stage (A Statement from C. Abad-Zapatero)

This play is certainly not the first to deal with scientific heroes or science-related themes. I would like to bring to the attention of the younger generations of crystallographers (and scientists at large) just a few landmarks of the genre of plays having to do directly or indirectly with science. In my student days in Spain, I was mesmerized by Life of Galileo (1939, 1947), the masterpiece by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht centered on the life and conflicts of Galileo. The social responsibility of the scientists in society resulting from the development of atomic energy was explored by the Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt in The Physicists (1962). More recently the intriguing brief play entitled Oxygen (2000) by Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann addresses the issue of who really discovered oxygen: Lavoisier, Sheele, or Priestley.

Finally, I would draw attention to the subtle and enormously successful play Copenhagen (1998, 2000) by Michael Frayn, which attempts to recreate what really happened in the historical meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg during World War II. A recent book entitled Science on Stage by Dr. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, UK (Princeton University Press, 2006), discusses the trends in this unique area of science writing and reviews and comments on more than a hundred plays presenting scientific themes on stage. By staging this play, we invite the scientific community at Argonne, their families, relatives, and friends, and the community at large to participate in a unique dialog between the Sciences and the Arts.


Special Acknowledgments from Cele Abad-Zapatero

I wish to acknowledge the influence, support, and advice of Chicago Dramatists, a unique Chicago institution, during the development of this work and especially that of Russ Tuterow, Rob Koon, and June Pyskacek. The support and encouragement of Sir Tom Blundell is appreciated. Rex Palmer, professor emeritus, provided the images of the mural that Picasso painted at Bernal’s flat in 1950. I wish to express my deep appreciation to my friend and colleague playwright Vivienne Baillie Gerritsen for her support and help in improving the dialogues and her suggestions to improve the play in its early stages. Thanks also to Carol Awe for proofreading and editing assistance in the early drafts.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the staff of the Lake Forest Library for helping me to locate and borrow important source material for the research necessary for this play; I could not have done it without their unfailing dedication and help. The late discovery of the research done by art historian and distinguished professor Linda D. Henderson at the University of Texas at Austin was a revelation. Since my first contact with her, she has been tremendously enthusiastic and supportive of the project. Her work and research have given this project an unprecedented scholarly dimension and robustness that I could never had imagined.

Image/Sound Credits

Most of the images and music effects used in this staged reading come from the previous readings of the original script. We acknowledge the creative work and dedication of Aimée Egler, Yahira Baéz, and Kelly Gay (images and video); Jacqueline LaMarre (music and audio); Prof. Larry Falvello; Silvia Russi (images); Judith Linacero (music); and Alicia Guasch (production). We acknowledge the Parc Cientific de Barcelona for support. The images of the art of Julian Voss Andreae are greatly appreciated. Mural photo by Prof. Rex Palmer, Birkbeck College, London.


This project is partly supported by the American Crystallographic Association, Bruker AXS Inc., the International Union of Crystallography, Minarik Corporation, Princeton Instruments, Varian, Inc., and the following Collaborative Access Teams (CATs) of the Advanced Photon Source: the Center for Advanced Radiation Sources of the University of Chicago (CARS-CAT), Janet Smith on behalf of the General Medicine and Cancer Institutes Collaborative Access Team (GM/CA-CAT), the Industrial Macromolecular Crystallography Association (IMCA-CAT), Tom Irving on behalf of the Biophysics Collaborative Access Team (BioCAT), and SGX Pharmaceuticals (SGX-CAT).

Biographical Notes

DR. CELERINO ABAD-ZAPATERO (coauthor): Cele worked for more than twenty years in macromolecular crystallography for drug discovery at Abbott Laboratories and is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A native of Spain, he came to the United States on a Fullbright scholarship in 1972. He obtained his Ph.D. in macromolecular crystallography at the university of Texas at Austin and continued his postdoctoral research with M.G. Rossmann at Purdue University, culminating in the structure solution of one of the first icosahedral plant viruses. Cele is not only a well-known crystallographer, however; he is also (in the words of Wayne Hendrickson of Columbia University) “a romantic and a visionary,” whose keen observations and fabulous cultural repertoire give him a unique insight into the interplay between science and society and a keen understanding of how to bring science to the layperson. His interest in communicating the excitement and beauty of crystallography and science to fellow scientists and the lay public has resulted in published essays and a book entitled Crystals and Life: A Personal Journey (International University Line, 2002). This is his second play related to scientific themes. This play is dedicated to the memory of his parents, Juan Abad and Amparo Zapatero; his parents-in-law, Juan Manterola and Victoria Matute; and especially to Maria Victoria Manterola and their two children, Inés and Pablo.

JILL CAMPBELL (coauthor): Jill is a professional playwright and screenwriter whose plays have been performed in Alaska, Chicago, Dublin, London, New Jersey, and New York. She lived in London from 2000 to 2003, where she studied with her mentor, playwright Bernard Kops. She was a member of Caird Company, which was founded by director John Caird (Les Miserables, Broadway) to assist emerging writers, and where she collaborated with directors Joyce Branagh and Stephen Wrentmore of the National Theatre. Her play Forgive Me Father was produced in London and was later invited to and produced at the Dublin Fringe Festival. Her play The Couple in the Kitchen was named a semifinalist in The Last Frontier Theatre Conference hosted by Edward Albee. The Couple in the Kitchen has also been staged by the Women’s Theatre Alliance in Chicago, Luna Stage in Montclair, New Jersey, at Caird Company in London, and at the Neighborhood Playhouse in East Hampton, NY. Jill was a 2005/2006 resident artist with the Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York City. She was also 2006 resident artist with Mabou Mines Suite in New York, where she was mentored by famed actress Ruth Maleczech and where her play The Lost Box of Utopia was developed and performed. She is an associate with Juggernaut Theatre Co., where she facilitates a writing workshop, and a member of the NewShoe women’s theatre group in New York.  She also writes for TV and film. She is a graduate of Ithaca College with a BFA in theatre and is represented by Abrams Artists in New York.

GREGORY GERHARD (director): Gregory is a freelance director and Associate Artist of Chicago Dramatists who has directed theater with Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Silk Road Theater Project, Firstborn Productions, Actors Workshop Theatre, Raven Theater Workshop, and Shapeshifters Theatre; staged readings with Chicago Dramatists, CAP21 (New York City), Chicago ScriptWorks, Chicago Writers Bloc, and Women's Theater Alliance; and several short films with Big Tree Productions.

LISA BUTTERFIELD (Art): Lisa has enjoyed the collaborative process that has become Bernal's Picasso. Recently, she was seen as Beth in Steep Theatre's production of Otherwise Engaged. Prior to that, Lisa appeared in Halcyon Theatre's production of The Runner Stumbles as Mrs. Shandig. Since moving to Chicago from Phoenix, she has also had the opportunity to play one of her favorite characters, Tricia in 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress with Hubris Productions. Lisa would like to thank her family and friends for their continued love and support.

MATTHEW KELLY (Extra): A native Rhode Islander, Matt has lived in Chicago for most of the last 9 years. He went to college at The University of Chicago, where he acted in numerous productions, playing that motley range of characters that college actors often do. Since then he has been in numerous roles on the Chicago scene, most of them villains!

VINCENT P. MAHLER (Picasso): Vincent most recently performed in Silk Road Theatre Project's acclaimed productions of The Merchant on Venice and Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat. For TimeLine Theatre, he appeared in Guantanamo and The General From America, and he was part of Signal Ensemble's Jeff Citation-nominated cast of The Weir. While artistic director for Frump Tucker Theatre, he was seen in How I Learned to Drive, Below the Belt, and An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf and has performed for such Chicago theatres as Bailiwick, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Chicago Jewish Theatre, Circle, Interplay, Irish Repertory, New Tuners, Pegasus Players, and Seanachai.

KIRSTEN D'AURELIO (Rosalind Franklin): Kirsten recently appeared as silent film star Beverly Bayne in the world premiere of Sounds of Silents at Prop THTR. Kirsten has performed all over the country, in places like the Victory Gardens Mainstage, the Illinois Humanities Festival, Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival, and Chicago Dramatists, where she's an Associate Artist and a frequent performer in their Saturday Series. Kirsten holds degrees in theater from both Indiana University and the University of California-Irvine. Kirsten had the honor of portraying poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Dear Editor at a gala performance for Poetry Magazine, sharing the stage with former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. This summer, she will be gallivanting around Central Park as Lina in Shaw's Misalliance at the New York Classical Theatre.

AARON CHRISTENSEN (W.L. Bragg): Aaron hails from the small farm town of Mead, Colorado, and has made Chicagoland his home since 1990. Windy City stage credits include The Philadelphia Story, Power, Some Americans Abroad, and Holiday with Remy Bumppo, Taming of the Shrew (First Folio), Stories of Carl Sandburg (Steppenwolf), Anna Christie (Apple Tree), Among the Thugs (Jeff Award, Next & Goodman), King Lear (Chicago Shakespeare), True West and Broken Spokes (After Dark Award, Bailiwick), Skyscraper and Chekhov Stories (Piven), and Not About Nightingales (Jeff Citation, Timeline). In addition, Aaron (aka "Dr. AC") is one of the Midwest's rising authorities on horror films and monster movies, having seen more than 1,500 creature features (and counting). His first Dr. AC guidebook, Horror 101, was published last year by Midnight Marquee, Inc., and is available wherever tomes of ill repute are sold.



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