July 25, 2019 9:00 pm

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anna Deavere Smith Explore What It Takes for Art and Science to Make Change

We’ve all at some point experienced a piece of art that has re-shaped the way we see the world. Whether it be a play, a movie, a song, a painting, a dance, or something else, we’ve all witnessed something that was presented as art but turned into something much bigger.

Brandon Royal’s photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anna Deavere Smith.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anna Deavere Smith. Credit: Brandon Royal.

On this week’s episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson sits down with acclaimed actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith to discuss the intersectionality of art and science, and how they can be used to create change. Anna is known for her roles on The West Wing (all hail National Security advisor Nancy McNally) and Nurse Jackie, as well as her numerous plays and her trailblazing work in documentary theatre. Neil is joined in-studio by comic co-host Eugene Mirman and scholar Dorothy Roberts.

Discover more about Anna’s scientific inspirations for her work. You’ll learn about the time she played Thomas Edison’s mother on stage. We discuss her play Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, which explores the Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn and was a pioneering work in documentary theatre. Anna tells us why she chose to have a physicist as one of the main characters in a play about race relations. She also tells us how she used the science of stargazing and telescopes to metaphorically explain race relations.

Natalia Reagan joins us to investigate how anthropology is important when discussing social issues. You’ll hear why evolutionary biologists and anthropologists are important people to look towards when exploring social and cultural behavior throughout history. Linguist Renée Blake drops in to help us understand the science and history of language. How did language start? Do we know? You’ll also hear how people use language as a cultural identifier.

Then, we break down why art and science are better because of the other. We answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about Isaac Newton and whether the story of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for when chemistry became biology. Lastly, Bill Nye drops in to explore why we create art and give us some history behind one of the most iconic pieces of art in Los Angeles.

Please join us tomorrow night for Art and Science for Change, with Anna Deavere Smith at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen