Research meets fantasy in Theory of Flight, a performance by Anna Lindemann, a composer and artist trained in evolutionary and developmental biology. In a twist on the ancient myth of Icarus, a lecturing scientist reveals she’s been growing her own wings using avian genes. Animated chalkboard diagrams convey the molecular biology, while vocal music and animated silhouettes advance the plot, about the risks and rewards of pursuing impossible research.

Theory of Flight is a unique tour-de-force of science-inspired art,” raves author, philosopher and musician David Rothenberg. “Anna Lindemann is a brilliant animator, composer, and performer who really has the audience unsure whether she is biologist or artist as she tells us all what is necessary to truly learn to fly. This work marks the birth of a whole new genre.”

Theory of Flight features Lucy Fitz Gibbon, noted for her clear voice (Mittelbayerische Zeitung) and endearing stage presence (The New York Times), as the Bird Spirit, and Anna Lindemann as scientist Alida Kear. The music, animation, and story are created by Anna Lindemann.

The creation of Theory of Flight

Theory of Flight was premiered and filmed at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy NY in April 2011. Music, animation, and story created by Anna Lindemann. Performed by soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon as the bird spirit and Anna Lindemann as the scientist. The premiere performance was directed by Emma Lunbeck with costumes by Kylin Mettler and lighting design by Jay Maury. The premiere was followed by a Flying Feast concocted by Ellie Markovitch and Rose Mitchell—a multi-taste experience inspired by the avian world. Performance development was funded in part by the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts and the RPI Arts Department.

Theory of Flight has been featured in the book Survival of the Beautiful: Art, Science, and Evolution by David Rothenberg and has been performed at a diversity of venues ranging from black box theater to natural history museum and planetarium. Theory of Flight has been performed at Yale University through the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, the Entertaining Science series at Cornelia Street Café, an All-Day Wonder-Cabinet at the Cantor Film Center in New York, NY, the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY and the Ho Tung Planetarium and Visualization Lab at Colgate University.

Theory of Flight was premiered in partial completion of Anna Lindemann’s MFA in Integrated Electronic Arts at the Department of the Arts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Anna's written thesis discusses the integration of biology and art and the creation of Theory of Flight, a performance intended to be an emotionally gripping and intellectually challenging experience emerging from the integration of music, performance, animation, and evolutionary developmental biology.

PDF of Theory of Flight written thesis