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UQ Performance

In Nov 2016, a staged reading of Purely Academic was performed in the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio at the University of Queensland, Australia.  The performance was directed by Dr Sarah Thomasson.

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  • Prof. James Holywell –    Prof. Fred D’Agostino
  • Charles Mittleman –        Dr Nick Hamilton
  • Prof. Martin Godson –    Prof. John Drennan
  • Prof. Mary Long –          Dr Sue O’Brien
  • Dr Joanne Cook –          Dr Amberyn Thomas
  • Anna White –                 Helen Morgan
  • Dr Mark Collins –          Raj Chabra
  • Prof. Max Williams –       Prof. Paul Alewood
  • Newsreader –                 Prof. Alan Lawson
  • Student –                          Jiayu Wang

Paul Alewood is Professor at the Division of Chemistry and Structural Biology in the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at the University of Queensland. He has an international reputation in the field of bioactive peptides and synthetic proteins and is the author of over 300 publications in high quality journals. He is also an inventor on 14 licensed patents that underpin peptide drug candidates with two candidates going into clinical trials. He was a prime mover in establishing the IMB, the Melbourne-based peptide company Auspep, and Xenome, a spin-off biopharmaceutical company from UQ focusing on pain drugs. Alewood’s research group comprises approximately 10 research students, assistants and postdoctoral fellows in the broad fields of peptide, protein and medicinal chemistry. Research projects include the development of the chemical synthesis of cysteine-rich bioactive peptides, the design and synthesis of new peptide drugs, peptidomimetics and proteomics. Current research targets involve the discovery of novel toxins from Australia’s venomous creatures, the design of mediators of neuropathic pain, and ion channel therapeutics.

Alan Lawson’s long acting career was interrupted soon after it began in 1967 with an adequate performance as a servant in a justifiably forgotten Restoration Comedy in the Lambton Community Hall, a role in which he entered scenes at awkward moments to unwittingly prevent moral and ethical disasters. Unfortunately, he was persuaded to pursue his day-job as an undergraduate student. But his passion for acting stayed with him and he later became Acting Head of Department, Acting Dean, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and even (for a day) Acting Vice-Chancellor. He drew on his acting experience in an ARC-funded project on The Impact of Risk Management on Higher Degree Research Policy and Pedagogy in Australian Universities (thereby getting every known buzzword into a single grant title). This led to the publication of “Who’s Dean Today? Acting and Interim Management as Paradoxes of the Contemporary University” (6 citations). His early stage experience in preventing ethical disasters led directly to Alan’s appointment as UQ’s Designated Person in Relation to Research Misconduct in 2010, and a post-retirement ‘career’ as a Consultant on Research Integrity, which has included chairing research misconduct investigation committees at several universities.

Amberyn Thomas is the Associate Director, Scholarly Communication and Repository Services at the UQ Library. In this role Amberyn is involved in the provision of bibliometrics, research data management and scholarly publishing services. Acting is not new to Amberyn; when she was in preschool she played the lead role of Peddler in the timeless classic Caps for Sale, the story about a peddler and a band of mischievous monkeys. Amberyn does not expect to give up her day job to pursue a full-time acting career, but is grateful that her position description includes Other Duties as Required, which allowed her to respond enthusiastically to the Research Integrity Officer’s call to participate in this play.

Helen Morgan Helen Morgan is Project Manager, Research Data Management Specialist at the University of Queensland Library. Helen is currently managing a project which aims to deliver an integrated Data Management Planning system for the UQ research community. Helen is particularly interested in best practice research data management and strategic research impact. Helen was quite literally born into academia, and as such, has no problem with the fact that the rest of her bio is plagiarised directly from the internet…  Coming off of a very successful acting career in Japanese traditional theatre and TV in Japan, William Crowley Helen is now a working SAG actor in TV & Film in Hollywood. After graduating Stanford as a professional athlete, ranked 2nd in the U.S. with a 3:57 mile time, William Helen understands what it takes to succeed in Hollywood: patience, hard work, and a belief in oneself. The Hollywood race is a marathon not a sprint. William Helen is also able to bake 5 minute brownie mix in 3 minutes.

Rajesh Chhabra’s last appearance on a stage play was about 20 years ago. He was active on stage during his school and college back in India but has never done an English play! Raj is genuinely amazed at how he managed to find time for Purely Academic as he travels a lot for work and spend less than 15 days a month at home. Raj sells high performance computing software and looks after the Asia Pacific region for a company named Altair Engineering. He plays Mark a young academic who isn’t happy about the rapid rise of Mittleman and, while he is happy to support Max for a formal complaint about Mittleman to the Dean and media, he is worried about losing his job for such an action.

Professor David Abramson is currently the Director of the Research Computer Centre at the University of Queensland, having also held senior roles at Monash University, Griffith University, RMIT and CSIRO. He lived through, and contributed to, computer science research and development that built the broader Internet as we know it (although he has no expertise in Internet search or plagiarism detection software). Purely Academic is a fictitious script informed by many years in academia, and doesn’t so much set out to dictate what is right or wrong, but to engender a discussion about the type of sector that we want. His career as a playwright only began in 2013 when Purely Academic burst onto the stage at the University of Oxford, and while he has many years of experience in writing computer code and research papers, Purely Academic was very much out of left field.

Sarah Thomasson is an academic and theatre maker. She completed her PhD in theatre and performance studies at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in 2015 and has taught at QMUL, the University of Queensland, and the University of Otago. She has worked with many Brisbane theatre companies over the last fifteen years including MadCat Productions, Three Sisters, Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble, Crossbow Productions, BlackLight, and the Good Room. She is currently company manager and board member of indelibility arts.

Fred D’Agostino did front of house and backstage work at Amherst College in the Sixties, working on Brecht’s Mother Courage, Mahagonny, The Good Person of Szechuan, Beckett’s Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape, and, notoriously (because we were all almost arrested), on Michael McClure’s The Beard, set in blue velvet eternity where Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow enact a ritual of … of what, exactly? Well, that would be telling! His only previous appearance on stage was as a dead bear in Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi. And that was almost fifty years ago. Fred is President of the Academic Board at UQ and a philosopher.

Dr Nick Hamilton’s acting career began when he took the lead role in Steventon Primary School’s (UK) fourth grade production of Rumpelstiltskin (“Through the window I can squeeze. When doors are locked, I pass with ease.”). This met with rave reviews and requests for an encore performance at the local old-age people’s home. Despite encouraging words from Miss Eltham, Nick took an extended hiatus from acting and went on to gain a PhD in Pure Mathematics from the University of Western Australia. He is now Institute Bio-Mathematician at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, a co-appointment with the Research Computing Centre. He returns to acting to play Charles, a part he has been method acting his whole life.

John Drennan started his short acting career in 1968. He played the pivotal role of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the St Ignatius College production in Adelaide. His most memorable part of this experience was going to the pie cart on Norwood Parade in full ghoulish costume in between acts. His next theatrical adventure was in a Victorian Romp called “Professor Black” which was performed during an Imperial College cultural evening. He was responsible for the now immortal line “Do not fear! My name is Juan and I am the new post doc around here”. He has used this to great effect throughout his esteemed research career. Returning to Purely Academic after a 30-year hiatus is unlikely to lead to a resurgence of his acting career as Professor Drennan has difficulty remembering his lines. Fortunately, the casting as Godson allows him to simply play himself. 

Susan O’Brien, according to her appropriately named Kindy teacher Mrs Shakespeare, was destined to be an actress after playing her first Mary in the Christmas nativity play in 1970. This was not to be. After her last role as ‘Sad Girl’ in her high school production of Bye Bye Birdie she was waylaid into a 25- year career as a scientist and research manager until required to consult David Abramson’s expertise. This led to a series of collaborations culminating in finding herself casting Purely Academic by strong-arming senior academic and professional staff into taking on what has been described as “other duties as directed”. Susan is Research Integrity Manager at the University but is pleased to find herself finally achieving the title of Professor.

Jiayu Wang is a PhD student at The School of Economics, The University of Queensland where she does research in energy economics and climate policies. During her PhD candidature, she has presented papers at a few academic conferences across the world and a seminar in the Joint Program on the Science and Policy at MIT. She won the 3MT Heat at School of Economics in 2015 and was the recipient of the Graduate School International Travel Award in 2016 which sponsored her research trip to the U.S.

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