In science we maintain the notion that a legible form will have a reliable effect, and in pharmaceutical science this occurs at the level of the pharmacophore. A pharmacophore represents the common features shared by the set of chemical structures that interact predictably with classes of biological targets. Hundreds of different pharmacophores exist that modify various biological signaling systems. For example, a pharmaceutical chemist seeking to create a drug against a certain bacterium might start with an antibiotic pharmacophore; while a chemist seeking to create an antidepressant might start with a neurotransmitter-modifying pharmacophore.In its workshop design-dance performance work, PHARMACOPHORE, Harrison Atelier explores Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, a novel driven by its protagonist’s search for a cure for her ennui. Emma Bovary places herself readily into the thrall of any object or idea, hoping to transcend what she terms her chronic “insufficiency.” In thinking about Madame Bovary as a narrative scaffold for PHARMACOPHORE, understanding the critical role in the novel of the character Homais, who is a pharmacist, we were struck by the structural resemblance, perhaps even the identity between Emma’s search for, and at times temporary achievement of, a cure for her malaise and the contemporary understanding of the placebo effect, whereby the desire that a drug will work temporarily triggers the release of neurotransmitters mimicking the sense of well-being.Placebos act by the mechanism of wish and desire, whereas pharmacophores act by mechanisms deduced by science. The wish that a drug will work can exceed its efficacy, or inefficacy, strictly defined according to its pharmacophoric interaction with a biological target. Cultural placebos—such as those with which Emma seeks to associate, even merge, but from which she cannot extract any sense of enduring well-being—exert their effects because a wish that something is or will be exceeds its actuality. The image of science, or, participation in a hygienic culture, or identification with social ideals or types, or the search for physical ecstasy are all familiar examples of cultural placebos.The dramaturgy of PHARMACOPHORE recapitulates the stages of Emma’s desire for placebos, her cycle of anticipation, release, despair. The choreography and set design elements reiterate the centralizing idea of the piece: placebo (culture)and pharmacophore (science) co-exist, at times reinforcing, at times conflicting.