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Lipstick Lobotomy: A Dramatic Reading

Public Humanities, Explorations in the Medical Humanities

dateMarch 28, 2019 timeThursday, 6:15pm EDT location Buell Hall, East Gallery, Columbia University
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated

This event is the first in the Explorations in the Medical Humanities series to feature an original creative piece, Krista Knight’s new play Lipstick Lobotomy. Knight, a former Juilliard Playwriting Fellow, is currently the Writer-in-Residence in Cinema & Media Arts and Theatre at Vanderbilt University. Other credits include Selkie at Dutch Kills, and Primal Play at New Georges.

Drawing on Columbia’s institutional history, we will host the play in Buell Hall, the only remaining building from the psychiatric institution formerly located on the University site. This one-off event will feature a dramatic reading of Knight’s play by professional actors, commentary from the playwright and director, and a brief history of Columbia’s architectural/institutional history as a psychiatric facility. The reading is intended to present the gendered and political history of lobotomy as a widely-performed psychiatric procedure in the mid-20th century, and, more generally, to explore the ways in which dramatic performance can engender new ways of thinking about medical testimony.

This reading will be directed by Eugene O’Neill National Directing Fellow Larissa Lury.

Lipstick Lobotomy imagines the playwright’s great aunt Ginny and JFK’s little sister Rosemary Kennedy meeting at an exclusive high-end sanitarium for women in the fall of 1941. Ginny is desperate to be friends with the charismatic and stylish Rosemary and is not satisfied with the talk therapy at the Institute and pressures her doctors for more aggressive treatment. Meanwhile, Rosemary, forced into the institute by her famous family because of her intellectual disability, keeps trying to escape. Their friendship blossoms as Ginny tirelessly pursues increasingly aggressive medical intervention.