Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M.

Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M.

Saturday, May 5, 2012 - 8:00pm

World Premiere Presented by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT
April 12 - May 13, 2012

Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, a science-theater collaboration between Underground Railway Theater and MIT, presents the World Premiere of YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M., written and directed by Wesley Savick, running April 12 through May 13, 2012. The press performance for YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. is Sunday, April 15 at 2PM.

At the age of 27, Henry Molaison became frozen in time. After experimental brain surgery, H.M. (as he was known to the scientific community) was unable to form new memories. His personal tragedy became neuroscience’s golden opportunity, contributing more to our understanding of the brain than had been learned in the previous 100 years. A scientific detective story, YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. explores the mysteries of his moving story, expanding on them and helping us understand ourselves.

After suffering from increasingly worse and more debilitating epilepsy from age 16, Henry Molaison underwent a bilateral medial temporal lobe resection by Dr. William Beecher Scoville. After the surgery, H.M. suffered from anterograde amnesia: the inability to form new declarative memories. A declarative memory (also known as an explicit memory) is any memory that is consciously recalled - knowledge that a person knows they recall - information, experiences or acquaintances. His amnesia was “pure,” and his case initiated modern memory research. H.M. was studied by scientists from after the surgery in 1953 until his death in 2008 at age 82.

This World Premiere of YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. has been created in conversation between scientists who studied H.M. as well as inspired by transcripts from research studies. There are sections of the play that are word-for-word accounts of interactions between scientists and H.M., including tests that led to remarkable new discoveries about the nature of memory. Some events in the play are based on verbatim conversations with H.M., they and include phrases that he would often be heard to say, such as "I'm having a conversation with myself.”

Like the scientists who studied him, playwright/director Wesley Savick also wanted to get inside H.M.’s head, but, as he explains, “I could only gain access indirectly, through documentation, remembrances, data and, ultimately, through imagination and empathy.” In other words, he found invention necessary to explore H.M.’s personal experience. “We need to assume that scientific data alone can't account for the life of this man… Henry Molaison was a man with above-average intelligence. He had feelings and dreams. He could not remember whether or not the pants in his closet were his own, but I nevertheless had to assume that he had a complex and rich experience of his own life.”

Last month, excerpts from YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. were performed at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, followed by a panel including Dr. Suzanne Corkin, Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at MIT. Dr. Corkin worked with H.M. from 1964 until his death in 2008. She recognized playwright Wesley Savick and his creative team: “I want to give kudos to Wes Savick and his collaborators for dedicating so many months to getting to know Henry and slipping inside his brain so they could understand what he was feeling each time he said, 'You see, I don’t remember things.’”

The story of H.M. is rife with paradox. He was the most studied man in the history of medical science, yet completely incapable of knowing how famous he was. He was incapable of personal change, yet he profoundly changed our understanding of memory. He could not retain names or new vocabulary, and yet he sustained a life-long addiction to crossword puzzles. His story is not only strange - it is also deeply moving. H.M. was a man on whom a terrible tragedy was perpetrated, yet he was above all concerned that, from his experience, “people would learn something.”

The play is structured as a weave of encounters with H.M. as he deals with the perils of everyday life, relates his dreams and even sings. Other artists exploring H.M.’s experience join the ensemble of actors: a pianist improvising a soundtrack of his imaginings and a projectionist trying to visualize his mental images.

Wesley Savick (Playwright & Director) served as Artistic Director of the internationally acclaimed experimental company, Theatre X in Milwaukee, Interim Artistic Director of the Drama League of New York’s Directors Project, Artistic Associate of Chicago’s Organic Theatre and Resident Guest Director of the DARTS/Subaru Theatre in Tokyo, Japan. Mr. Savick has directed or acted in over 80 professional productions, almost all new works, including world premieres by Christopher Durang, Shel Silverstein, Derek Walcott, Howard Zinn and Robert Brustein. He has also written, co-written or adapted 20 produced plays, including Car Talk: The Musical!!! (with original music by Michael Wartofsky), opening this June at Central Square Theater. He is also the Founding Director of The National Theatre of Allston, a new company devoted to original, avant-garde, political work. Mr. Savick is a tenured Professor at Suffolk University.

About the Cast
Barlow Adamson (Henry Molaison) most recently appeared in Time Stands Still at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Other credits include: Arms and the Man, Private Lives and Noises Off (Lyric Stage Company); Almost Maine, Reckless, Fuddy Meers and Theater District (SpeakEasy Stage Company); The Maiden's Prayer and A Month in the Country (Huntington Theatre Company); On The Verge (The Nora Theatre Company); Dinner With Friends, Table Manners and Living Together (Gloucester Stage Company); The Real Inspector Hound (Publick Theatre Boston); and Tuesdays With Morrie (Worcester Foothills Theatre). He is an Artistic Associate of the Mill 6 Collaborative, serving as Director for Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People, The Monster Tales and Shakespeare's R+J.

Steven Barkhimer (Ensemble) appeared in Underground Railway Theater’s production of The Life of Galileo, directed by David Wheeler, as well as Alice’s Adventures Underground and Einstein’s Dreams. Most recently, he has been seen as Max in Superior Donuts (Lyric Stage Company of Boston) as well as Feste in Twelfth Night (Actors’ Shakespeare Project), Norman in Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together (Gloucester Stage Company) and a homicidal border guard in Suzan Lori Parks’ Book of Grace (Company One). He can be seen as the HBO producer in the motion picture The Fighter.

Anna Kohler (Ensemble) is a member of the Music and Theater Arts faculty at MIT. Ms. Kohler studied acting and directing at the Conservatory for Art and Drama and Mozarteum University of Salzburg. She received her degree in Acting and Aesthetic Studies at the Université IIIV Vincennes in Paris after studying mime with Etienne Decroux. Since joining the NYC experimental theater scene in1982, she has worked on stage with Stuart Sherman, John Jesurun, Richard Foreman, Fiona Templeton and Werner Herzog. She is an associate member of the Wooster Group. She has also worked with Steve Buscemi and Mark Boone Jr.. Her solo performance, D' Arc-ness, premiered at Amsterdam’s Triple X Festival. More recently, she has toured Europe with Ode to the Man Who Kneels, written and directed by Richard Maxwell. She appeared in movies by Jonathan Demme, Peter Sellars and Hal Hartley. Her directing work has been shown in Salzburg; Kiel, Germany; Saõ Paulo and New York City.

Debra Wise (Ensemble, Artistic Director of Underground Railway Theater, Co-Director of Catalyst Collaborative@MIT) is a founding member of Underground Railway Theater and has served as Artistic Director since 1998. She has been involved in the collaborative creation of over 30 new works as performer, playwright, director and/or dramaturg. Ms. Wise is also Artistic Co-Director of Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, an initiative pairing theater artists and scientists to create new plays and to frame the production of classic plays with conversation about science and society. From 1997 - 2003, Ms. Wise co-directed the Women on Top Theater Festival of new works by New England women theater artists. She has performed with companies both in New York (The Public Theater and the Ark, with Julie Taymor and Elizabeth Swados) and in Boston. She is Theater Specialist for the Art Works for Schools Program, a collaboration with Harvard’s Project Zero, teaching thinking in and through the arts and across the curriculum.

Tae Kim (Pianist), prize winner of Steinway Society Piano Competition and Arlington Young Artist Competition, received a BM from Boston Conservatory and an MM from New England Conservatory. He has gained widespread recognition as an up-and-coming pianist. Born in South Korea, Tae has studied piano since age 4. He has soloed with many ensembles, including Yurodivy Chamber Orchestra, Hemenway Strings and Boston Conservatory Orchestra. Headlined as a “Radiant Glimpse of Talent to Come,” the Boston Globe praised his “sparkling performance” of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto. Tae also actively participates in chamber and contemporary ensembles, where he has worked with distinguished artists like Suren Bagratuni, Lynn Chang, Hsin-Yuan Huang, Alice Schoenfeld, Brinton Smith as well as Allison Eldredge and Irina Muresanu of The Boston Trio. His interest in contemporary improvisation has led him to collaborate with Tod Machover. Tae's teachers include Jonathan Bass, Bruce Brubaker, Janice Weber and Patricia Zander.

About the Creative Team
Wesley Savick, along with Debra Wise, has assembled a seasoned design team, many of whom have been collaborating and shaping the theatrical experience for the World Premiere of YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. for over a year. The team includes Justin Townsend (scenic and lighting), Jeff Adelberg (lighting), Tod Machover (composer/sound designer), Gail Astrid Buckley (costumes), Sam Sewell (properties coordinator) and Olivia Sebesky (projections). Dominique D. Burford is the production stage manager.

YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. plays at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Thursday, April 12 through Sunday, May 13. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30PM, Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 3PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 2PM. Tickets may be purchased by calling 866.811.4111, at the Central Square Theater box office, or online at For box office hours, group discounts and more information please call 617.576.9278 x210.

Central Square Theater (CST) is a 4-year-old nonprofit organization, created through a groundbreaking partnership between The Nora Theatre Company (The Nora) and Underground Railway Theater (URT). This collaboration has been called a model for the arts community (The Boston Foundation, Culture is our Commonwealth and The National Collaboration Prize), as it has paired two like-minded performing arts organizations in a strategic alliance with the City of Cambridge and MIT, resulting in the development of a state-of-the-art performing arts center in the heart of Central Square. CST has a mission to support its two theaters-in-residence while maintaining a shared vision of artists and audiences creating theater vital to their communities. The Nora and URT have a combined 52-year track record of producing award-winning theater. Located in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and steeped in its multiracial, intergenerational, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods, the CST theater experience exudes a democratic energy where classes, races and age groups come together to be inspired, entertained and energized.

The balance of Central Square Theater's 2011 - 2012 Season includes the professional premiere of Car Talk: The Musical!!! with book and lyrics by Wesley Savick and original music by Michael Wartofsky (June 14 - July 15, 2012) presented by Underground Railway Theater and Suffolk University.

All productions are performed at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Central Square Theater is accessible to persons with special needs and to those requiring wheelchair seating.

For further information please call 617.576.9278 x210 or visit


by Wesley Savick

At the age of 27, Henry Molaison became frozen in time. After experimental brain surgery, H.M. (as he was known to the scientific community) was unable to form new memories. His personal tragedy became neuroscience’s golden opportunity, contributing more to our understanding of the brain than had been learned in the previous 100 years. A scientific detective story, YESTERDAY HAPPENED: REMEMBERING H.M. explores the mysteries of his moving story, expanding on them and helping us understand ourselves. This World Premiere is being created in conversation between scientists who studied H.M. and artists: playwright Wesley Savick (Einstein’s Dreams, Tru Grace), composer Tod Machover, and designer Justin Townsend.

Presented by: Catalyst Collaborative@MIT

Cast: Barlow Adamson, Steven Barkhimer, Anna Kohler, Debra Wise, Tae Kim (pianist)

Director: Wesley Savick
Production Stage Manager: Dominique D. Burford

Design Team: Justin Townsend (Scenic Design), Gail Astrid Buckley (Costume Design), Jeff Adelberg (Lighting Design), Tod Machover (Sound Design & Composer), Sam Sewell (Properties Coordinator), Olivia Sebesky (projections).

Performing at: Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

Performance Dates: Thursday, April 12 through Sunday, May 13, 2012
Press Performance: Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 2PM
Performance Schedule: Weds. & Thurs. at 7:30PM, Fri. at 8PM, Sat. at 3PM & 8PM, Sun. at 2PM

Run Time: 90 minutes, no intermission

Ticket Prices:
Wednesday, Thursday: $40 adult $35 senior (62+), $15 back row/sides
Friday and Saturday (evenings & matinees), Sunday matinees: $45 adult $40 senior (62+), $15 back row
Students (with University ID): $25, Students (under 18): $15
Student Rush: $20 with valid college ID, day-of-show. Subject to availability

Box Office: (866) 811-4111,
Media Information: Nicholas Peterson, (617) 576-9278 x205
Production photos will be available Thursday, April 12, 2012.

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