Humans and monkeys, center stage

A new play captures the power struggles that can occur among troops of monkeys and the scientists studying them

Melinda Wenner
Apr 5, 2007
A group of monkeys darts across the stage. "Kill, kill, savage him!" A female screams to her mate, Jasantha, encouraging him to attack a member of her own troop. "Savage his ears and face! Go!" Jasantha jumps up to meet the third monkey face-to-face. "I rule over you!" he yells. War music pervades the theatre, and a deadly fight begins.
This is a scene from a new play, Serendib, opening this week in New York City as part of the First Light Festival, a month-long celebration of science and technology-inspired theatre supported by the Sloan Foundation. Written by David Zellnik, Serendib (which refers to the ancient Arabic word for Sri Lanka and the origin of the word "serendipity") is inspired by one of the longest ongoing primate studies in the world. Begun by zoologist Wolfgang Dittus in 1968, the Polonnaruwa project, set in the evergreen forests...

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