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Music, physics and theater professors at UIUC are launching a new art and science collective

Illinois physics professor Gina Lorenz, center, used poetry to explain concepts of light in “Quantum Voyages" in 2018. A fourth iteration will be performed on April 19 at the launch event for the Collective for Art-Science, Creativity and Discovery, etc.

A performance about a journey of two voyagers exploring the quantum realm has inspired a group of professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to launch a new art and science collective.

In 2018, physics professor Smitha Vishveshwara and theater professor Latrelle Bright created an interdisciplinary performance called “Quantum Voyagers,” which presents the story of two people guided by the spirit of knowledge, Sapienza. 

Now, in collaboration with UIUC music professor Stephen Taylor, Vishveshwara and Bright are launching the Collective for Art-Science, Creativity and Discovery, etc., or CASCaDe.

Bright said that many people in the community have worked to bring projects like “Quantum Voyages” to life, and it was time to bring everyone together as a community. 

“CASCaDe, as much as it is a project guided and facilitated by these three people — me, Smitha and Stephen — it is also an invitation. It is an invitation for anyone who wants to come play and explore,” Bright said. 

When people from different corners of the world, and from different academic fields, come together, Vishveshwara said unexpected creativity can flourish. 

Vishveshwara also wants the collective to allow young people to experience the intersection of art and science, which she believes can help them develop deeper thinking skills.

“It’s amazing when you tell young minds to just explore, just open up their creativity, understand something deeper, and just express it,” she said.

In addition to deep thinking, Vishveshwara said one of the goals of the collective is to help cultivate playfulness, expression and empathy in the community. 

The launch event for the collective will be held on April 19 at the Krannert Center for Performing Arts in Urbana. As part of the celebration, a new iteration of the opening scene of Quantum Voyages will be performed. 

This will be the fourth iteration of the show according to Bright. With every new performance of “Quantum Voyages,” she said the group tries to incorporate something different. In the first iteration, the main focus was on language and explaining physics concepts. Later in 2020, the show experimented with a virtual performance on Zoom.

Bright said this version is different from the previous iterations because music is incorporated throughout the piece and plays an essential part in how the story is told. 

“I don’t think we realized music was missing in the first iterations,” Bright said. “But it is an element that adds so much dimension.”

The music allows performers Gina Lorenz and Kimberly Schofield, Vishveshwara said, to create a dialogue between the words and sounds. 

Bright said Vishveshwara and her decide what to change based on what audience members think. She said it is important to listen to feedback in order to improve. 

“I think as part of that larger community, we listen to the responses. We got a lot of feedback from the first iteration. It’s coming from folks who care and really want to make sure we can put our best foot forward,” Bright said. 

While CASCaDe includes performers and creators, Bright said it also includes members of the community who see the work. She said they are the ones responsible for shifting and advancing the productions. 

When community members come to the launch event, Vishveshwara said she hopes they are able to feel connected to the performance. 

“I hope we inspire awe for the universe, for who we are, the humanity within, the quantum and all that connects us,” she said.

Picture of Stephanie Mosqueda

Stephanie Mosqueda

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