Do you want to live forever? How far would you go to have a perfect baby? What would you be willing to do to save your child’s life? As our capability to manipulate human genetics advances, what once may have seemed like the realm of science fiction has become increasingly possible, but have our ethics evolved as quickly as our technology?
The Weill Cornell Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) invites the New York City community to join the conversation about the ethics of genetic interventions, “designer babies” and “savior siblings” at a free, one-night-only presentation of the new rock opera Playing God, created by Finnish bioethicists and musicians Matti Häyry and Tuija Takala and legendary drummer Corky Laing (of the celebrated rock band Mountain) and directed by Kate Mueth. This original score has been critically praised and likened to such classic rock theatre pieces as Tommy, The Wall and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Playing God has been performed in Switzerland and Finland and will enjoy its US premiere here.
“This is a thrilling opportunity to share our thoughts about the future of human genetics with a discerning New York audience,” said Matti Häyry. Tuija Takala added, “We are confident that we will reach people on a new level through the music and lyrics of the rock opera, and far more effectively than we would through traditional academic communications.”
Playing God tells the story of a fictional small town whose inhabitants have enjoyed the benefits of gene technology for decades. As the paths of the young characters—whose lives, loves and futures have been shaped by genetic intervention—collide, the secrets, sacrifices and ethical compromises of the community are exposed. Through the story, music and characters, Playing God challenges the audience to study their own ethical convictions, raising open-ended questions about parental choices, perfection, identity and what it means to be human in a world where our fundamental genes are open to manipulation.
Following the performance, there will be an ethics panel discussion moderated by Joseph J. Fins, MD, The E. William Davis, Jr. MD, Professor of Medical Ethics and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Director of the Research Ethics Consultation Service, Weill Cornell CTSC. The panelists will include not only the creators Häyry, Takala and Laing, but also Josephine Johnston, Director of Research and a Research Scholar at The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institution in Garrison, NY.
“Engaging the community in important biomedical research is an essential aspect of the CTSC’s mission,” said Julianne Imperato-McGinley, MD, Program Director, Weill Cornell CTSC, and Associate Dean for Translational Research and Education, Weill Cornell Medical College, “And we’re always looking for innovative ways to promote that dialogue. Playing God will reach audiences in a fresh, entertaining way about questions that will become increasingly important as gene technology grows.”
Dr. Fins agreed, “Playing God is a creative approach to some of the most perplexing questions in bioethics. It’s a terrific way to use the arts to inform and inspire us to think deeply about the promise and peril of medical technology.”
Playing God: The Rock Opera
By Matti Häyry, Tuija Takala, and Corky Laing
Directed by Kate Mueth
Presented by the Weill Cornell Clinical and Translational Science Center
April 23, 2015, at 7 pm
The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
695 Park Avenue (Entrance on E. 68th Street between Lexington and Park Avenue)
New York, NY
For tickets and more information, visit ctsc.med.cornell.edu/playinggodrocks