Party Play: "Photograph 51"

Beth Fhaner
 | Mar 12, 2019

Photograph 51, Anna Ziegler’s play featuring a strong female protagonist, opened at an especially appropriate time: on International Women's Day and at the start of Women's History Month. Based on a true story, Photograph 51 presents an intriguing portrait of British chemist Rosalind Franklin, whose groundbreaking role in the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure is still often overlooked.

Intelligent and thought-provoking, Photograph 51 captivated the attention of the First Night audience and never let up, delivering an hour and 40 minutes of extraordinary performances, sharp dialogue and heartfelt emotion under the direction of Kimberly Senior. Along with some laughter—and some tears—theatregoers showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation.

Led by Helen Sadler (Rosalind) as the complex and courageous scientist making her way in a male-dominated field, the entire ensemble delivered impressive performances while giving audiences a glimpse into the scientific research labs at King’s College London in the early 1950s. The cast also includes Giovanni Adams, George Ketsios, Anil Margsahayam, Riley Neldam and Josh Odsess-Rubin.

Honorary Producers and First Night attendees Jean and Tim Weiss greatly enjoyed seeing the play and commented, “The news around us has finally put a microscope to how women are- and have been treated, not only in the workplace, but as equal citizens in today's world, and this play shows us that it is indeed not ‘news’ at all, that, in fact, this unconscionable behavior has been part of our fabric for a very long time. Kimberly Senior’s minimalist presentation helps us focus solely on the characters in the play, and the actors do not disappoint. Learning from playwright Anna Ziegler that this play has been around for a number of years made me think of her as an early foot soldier in the exposure of the unequal treatment of women, and through her terrific writing, made those who read and watch the play, recruits.” 

Guests who attended the cast party at the Center Club, which was a co-sponsor of the event, were welcomed to the elegant space with beautiful, springlike floral arrangements consisting of pink tulips, soft pink-tinted hydrangeas and white snapdragons.

The celebratory soirée’s menu featured an assortment of flavorful bites including passed hors d’oeuvres such as tomato soup shooters with mini grilled cheese sandwiches, chilled jumbo shrimp with spicy cocktail sauce, and smoked chicken on pecan crostini with fig jam. Partygoers also ​enjoyed assorted domestic cheese platters and vegetable crudité platters, as well as assorted dips, artisan breads and crackers.

In addition to the ​tasty appetizers, First Nighters also savored British-inspired fare such as a fish and chips station with house-made tartar sauce, malt vinegar and ketchup. A mini shepherd’s pie station—with truffle mashed potatoes—was also a big hit with the festive crowd.

The evening’s signature cocktail was dubbed “The Double Helix”—a delicious beverage comprised of brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. This cocktail is usually known as a Sidecar. It was a popular drink in the 1950s.

For a sweet finish to the evening, guests indulged in a scrumptious assortment of lemon bars and vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, while also enjoying hot drinks from a coffee and tea station.

First Night theatregoers were delighted to have the opportunity to meet director Kimberly Senior, playwright Anna Ziegler and the entire cast. All the while, lively conversation and laughter continued to swirl around Photograph 51, a compelling, poignant drama about one woman’s groundbreaking role in the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure.

Learn more about Photograph 51 and buy tickets.