An Empathy Theatre Project
During the confinement caused by COVID-19, even before opening doors to the public, _ARTERIA_LAB sent post-apocalyptic postcards to its closest friends, challenging them to share with us ideas that can change the world. Ana Tamen, director of the Performing Arts Course at the University of Évora got in touch and presented us the Human Labyrinth project.
The Human Labyrinth results from a collaboration between the Performing Arts Course at the University of Évora, directed by Ana Tamen, and Terra Incognita, an exploratory theatre group based in New York, directed by the director Polina Klimovitskaya. _ARTERIA_LAB joined the project in order to bring a transdisciplinary approach to the challenge. The main objective of this project is to create a participatory online performance that is also an exercise in empathy. How can the performing arts and technology promote a deeper and more sensitive view of the other? Researchers from different scientific areas (artificial intelligence and information technologies, neurosciences and engineering) have been involved in the project since the beginning of the creative process.
“The project was born from an acting class exercise. I have observed that my students had a lot of problems and were disturbed by the political difference and opinions within their own families. Whereas in some families the parents were on the conservative side, their children were on the liberal side, and they had difficulties to understand even their own family members. So we created an improvisation in which each actor had to really listen, try to understand, and then enact the family member or someone they knew closely who had an opposite view from their own. We had a discussion, a very hot political discussion, in which people in earnest had to defend the very view that themselves don’t share, the view from a person from opposite. And that discussion seemed to me very productive because there was a shift in perspective and people’s attitude and perception, why a cousin, a friend, a brother, a father, can be on the other side of the aisle.”
The purpose is to have an experience with a specific person outside of any kind of labeling, to help people to hear each other’s stories and imagine being in another’s situation. This theatrical game can help people to listen more attentively and to not focus on conflict but on the life, values, and environment of another person. When people engage in game, performance, or storytelling, they reveal themselves. The mandala helps us to understand the formation of a person, to see a person in his or her environment, and to have glimpses of how their opinions are shaped and influenced. The audience will be forced to listen to details of real human experience.