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Generous Theatre’s Gumbo Festival

February 6, 2013

No animals were harmed during Generous Theatre Company’s Gumbo festival, but a number of neuroscience books took a beating. Strands of thread dangle down on the Theatre Project stage, entwined with what looks like the remains of a massive amount of paper shredding. Workshop organizer David White says that these are neuroscience textbooks.

This is the setting for a two week Gumbo festival, stretching from January 31 to February 9. The festival’s theme is the science of the brain. It presents readings of short pieces by 19 playwrights, from Baltimore and elsewhere. They respond to advances in neurobiology. Playwrights are given a episode from the Brain Series, a 24-part series on the Human Brain, guided by Charlie Rose.

It’s an interesting collaborative attempt to bring neuroscience to the stage. Lines between art and music, science and aesthetics all get shamelessly blurred.

The night begins with the WordBridge hothouse – featuring the work of three or four playwrights, local and national, working on a prompt. This year, the focus was on the neuroscience of art. Playwrights were asked to watch and then put together a sketch based on the show. Three sketches on the night in question were based on an episode that touched on the topics of memory and perception.

Then comes the Gumbo, and a chance to talk to playwrights. The Gumbo costs 5 bucks, but there are refills.

The following hour or so is occupied by a workshop production of “The Beholder’s Share”, a collective work in progress by Generous Company, directly inspired by The Age of Insight, the Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, by Nobel-Prize winning scientist Eric Kandel. In it, the three Generous Company actors work around the relationship between creation and perception.

Each evening is capped by a local musicians Stuart Lewis and John and Brittany. It’s an interesting addition to a string of thought-provoking pieces over the last year that focus on the relationship between visual art.



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