Eileen and Suzanne Trauth were hoping to find a creative way to inform a broader audience about the barriers to enter the field of information technology for women and other under-represented groups.
At 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at The State Theatre, audiences will have a chance to witness two readings of “iDream,” the product of their idea.
“iDream” tells the story of three high school women who discover the career potential in information technology, computer science and computer engineering that is available to women. Women currently comprise 10 percent of the industry, said Suzanne, a professor of theatre and dance at Montclair State University.
The play is derived from the research of Eileen, a professor in the College of Information Science and Technology at Penn State.
Eileen received funding from the National Science Foundation to produce her research, as well as her play.
Eileen said she wanted to link social issues to people who are doing research about how to fix them.
“Barriers are complicated. They’re subtle. They’re emotional. It’s more complex than sometimes we like to think about it,” she said. “I found it was a little frustrating in trying to express this in conventional scientific articles.”
Her sister, Suzanne, , suggested that they create a play together about the topic.
Suzanne said the sisters have been collaborating on the process for a couple of years.
“We started doing informal readings at my house, and then we moved to a theatre,” she said.
John Wooten, producing artistic director of Premiere Stages at Kean University, said he saw “iDream” as a very topical play that fit in well with other Premiere Stages productions.
“Almost exclusively, what we do is new play development. That’s a major focus of our mission here at Premier Stages,” said Wooten, who directed the play.
Wooten said Premiere Stages has done a series of readings and workshops to help develop the play and to get it ready for a full production.
“We give the playwrights the opportunity to hear the play out loud performed by professional actors and then have a series of Q-and-A’s, where they can have audiences talk about their reactions to the play,” he said.
This weekend’s readings of “iDream” will also consist of three different forms of data collection from the audience. This includes if people understand the play, if they get the message of the play and how the play makes them feel.
“What we want to know is do people understand the play, do they get a message from the play and how does it make them feel,” Eileen said.
A survey will be taken before the play begins, and each reading will follow with a question and answer session and another survey opportunity online, she said.
Eileen added that even though the target audience is primarily young people who face gender, race and ethnicity barriers, she found it just as valuable for adults, teachers, guidance counselors and parents to see the play.
“It’s important to know what students are up against,” she said. “It’s very important for people to understand about this field of information science and technology that a lot of people have stereotyped about.”