The Female Role Model Project is an interactive theatrical experience paired with neuroscience celebrating female pioneers. It combines performance and interactive games with live recordings of neural activity from actors and audiences using EEG headsets and is present in Edinburgh for the month of August. Tjasa Ferme, Artistic Director and Ritual Creator for the show, spoke with The Fountain about the premise of the show as well as her plans for Fringe.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
It’s a blast! It’s been a dream. A dream that came true very quickly. We’re super excited to connect with some local designers/technicians and work with a neuroscientist from Glasgow University. We can’t wait to engage with the Fringe audiences – we are curious about how the interactive sections and the storytelling will be different from the New York theatregoers.
TF: The Female Role Model Project certainly sounds interesting, what is the premise?
I can describe this show on so many levels! The Female Role Model Project is a mix of interactive theatre and neuroscience, it can be described as a series of games, or as a twisting path of personal journeys, or an exploration of what female identity means from socio/psychological/neuro perspective. Four women of completely different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds meet on stage to tell their personal stories spanning from childhood to adulthood. Some of my favorite moments in the show are when we invite an audience member on stage to become our beauty competition judge and like Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch the outcomes depend on the judge’s choices. Or there is an intimate scene where actors connect with audience members wearing headsets while their brain activity is being projected for everyone to see and interpreted by a cognitive neuroscientist live on stage. It is work that is completely unique and it’s trying to catch a glimpse of what the underlying neurobiology of experiencing different female role models is. The last part is the most satirical- we play a game of “Who is the top role model of today” hosted by “Oprah Winfrey“. The actors portray three influencers competing and try to win the audience’s votes. We’re all wearing headsets, which influence the audio design and the audience-by asking cognitively and emotionally provocative questions-becomes the DJ of our brains. Stimulating, unpredictable and fun!
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
I have always been fascinated with strong, unusual, independent women who were able to carve their own way in the world and defy the norms. The media’s portrayal of women frustrated me and as a tomboy growing up, I always felt this desire to break the mold. Through writing my one woman show about Marlene Dietrich, I realised we don’t have enough female role models that would represent that other type-strong, decisive, pioneering, reinventing and transcending gender. I wanted to reframe being different as a good thing, a strength. I was just listening to Guru Jagat and Madame Gandhi and I love how they put it that the fourth wave feminism is creating alternative structures of leadership, creating an alternative archetype for leadership-by women. I can definitely get behind that.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I have been to the Edinburgh Fringe before, in 2017 when I came to scout it out to figure out how this big beautiful machine of the festival works. I think I picked up on a few important trends but also let’s face it we’re a virgin company here so anything could happen! We’re just hoping to engage with a lot of audiences, bring a different type of an experience to the festival: blending neuroscience with interactive theater and to tackle this loaded topic of what being a female (of all genders) in this world means today. I also absolutely adore the city and I will explore it further. On a few days off I’m even hoping to travel a little bit outside of the city and visit some other seminal places in Scotland. I also deeply, genuinely, geekily love risk taking theater so I can’t wait to see what other Fringe participants bring.
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Female Role Model Project?
We are planning university workshops and we’re talking about some touring possibilities in Asia-mainly Singapore. We are about to start creating the brother show to The Female Role Model Project, which will be about men, called Men’s Circle. Thank you so much for your interest in us, it’s been a great pleasure talking with you and we hope to see you at the show!
You can see The Female Role Model Project at Bedlam Theatre from 7th – 25th August at 12:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com