How Emotiv found its way to the Off Broadway stage: An Interview with Tjaša Ferme of The Female Role Model Project

The Female Role Model Project is a pioneering theatrical experience that explores representations of female role models and their evolution while incorporating live neuroscientific recordings using EMOTIV headsets. Artists perform different role models such as Mulan, Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Obama and Melania Trump while the electrical activity of their brain is monitored using the EPOC+ and Insights headsets. The performers’ neural functioning is then projected for everyone in the theatre to see live and in real time.

So how did this progressive production come about and where is it headed? To find out, we sat down with its award winning creator-producer-performer, Tjaša Ferme.

 

What inspired you to do this show and why did you choose EMOTIV?

There was something percolating inside of me for a long time and through my body of work: a sex-positive farce Cocktales-Confessions of a Nymphomaniac, Wild Child In The City,  and Marlene Dietrich- a one-woman show, a new thing emerged. My observation was that we don’t have enough female role models who would be powerful, imaginative, vulnerable but invincible in their intent to persevere and make their voice heard, and manage to carve their place under the sun on their own terms to inspire the rest -or perhaps we just don’t talk about it enough. So I started developing a devised theatre piece about female role models paired with high-tech neuroscience and founded my own company TRANSFORMA Theatre Inc. with Dr. Natalie Kacinik, Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY, specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience, and NY attorney Jacob Sebag.

I was on a Ted Talk binge when I came across Tan Le’s phenomenal story, charisma and vision. I knew that my role model project and this incredible leader belonged together. So, it wasn’t generated by a long ardorous internet search of which companies to get in touch with, but rather Tan Le’s story found me and touched me. After reaching out I got an immediate benevolent response, with interest to collaborate. We started working together last May (2017) so it’s been well over a year and I am super excited about The Female Role Model Project, possible college residencies, tours, etc.

I love seeing Emotiv expand, progress and come up with new software, technology and creating new interactive media platforms! BrainViz was really perfect for what we do and right on time for our immersive four hour theatrical journey at Theaterlab’s Hotel New Work. BrainViz enables us to attempt to interpret brain activity in real time with  compelling and artistic images.

 

Have there been any interesting takeaways or reactions?

I think people say that this project is necessary and sometimes even disturbing but that we are opening issues and conversations that need to be had. They say it’s really thought provoking and they are intrigued by the brain component, always wanting more and I really think they’re completely entranced by the beautiful imagery generated.

 

Is there anything else you plan to do with the production or EMOTIV in the future?

I am super interested in the BCI (brain computer interface) component. I actually wanted to create a BCI game for the epilogue of our play, but we unfortunately ran out of time.

I think theatre might be a challenging environment because it requires laser focus, which can be hard because of so many unpredictable circumstantial factors when you’re in a big space with a lot of people, but I’m super excited about exploring the possibilities.

An opportunity presented itself to possibly do a CUNY City Tech Residency that would enable this deep dive into a BCI video game world. Fingers crossed on the Female Role Model Project.

 

The Female Role Model Project is currently on stage at New York City’s premier hub for arts and technology, 3-Legged Dog (3LD), for a four week engagement November 7th through December 2nd, 2018. Tickets are available at eventbrite.