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Female Geniuses Gets Intimate Portrait in Bay Area Play

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Until this year, when two women won Nobel Prizes in science, only 17 women in the field had ever won the prestigious award. Since their inception, men have won nearly 98 percent of science Nobel Prizes. The striking disparity invites a lot of commentary, and now art.

A new play, called “No Belles” has arrived in the Bay Area, to illuminate the identities and stories of some of those female Nobel Prize winners.

The story opens with an inquiry: Why is Marie Curie the only female scientist of note that people recognize? This evolves into researching the stark, unflattering statistics mentioned above.

Created by Portal Theater in Portland, No Belles focuses on three women — Rosalyn Yalow, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Rosalind Franklin, while also telling the stories of other winners in short form.

Rosalyn Yalow won the 1977 Nobel in Medicine & Physiology, and was the first American-born woman to win in that category. Rita Levi-Montalcini was an Italian Nobel Prize winner for her work in neurobiology. Rosalind Franklin, meanwhile, was from the United Kingdom, and made contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA and RNA.

Medicine Nobel Prize Winner Rita Levi-Montalcini honored with the Legion D’Honneur Medal receives compliments from the French Ambassador Jean-Marc De La Sabliere (R) and the President of the French Academy in Rome Frederic Mitterrand (L) at the Villa Medici on December 5, 2008 in Rome, Italy. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Previous well-known plays celebrating male scientists have included Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. But just as with the Nobel Prize, female scientists have been shortchanged when it comes to artistic depictions of scientific accomplishment.

No Belles seeks to honor their stories with an intimate look into their genius.

No Belles will be performing in San Rafael on Saturday, October 13 at Mills College.


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