From Producing Artistic Director, Bree Luck:
We humans share nearly 99 percent of our DNA with Pan troglodytes—chimpanzees—and it shows. Our hands, faces, and bodies aren’t really so different. But what can go unnoticed is our common biochemical and emotional inheritance. In times of distress, chimps experience a surge of testosterone and tend to exhibit competitive and even aggressive behaviors toward one another. But when our equally close cousins Pan paniscus—bonobos—are threatened, their bodies produce cortisol, and they reach out to other bonobos for help. When they sense that another ape is suffering, they join hands with them. And when given a choice, they prefer to share food, even with strangers.
These are stressful times in Charlottesville. 2018 has already been filled with strife and anxiety as we recognize, name, and attempt to address issues of racism that have been quietly (and not so quietly) pervasive for generations. Add to that mad increases in health care costs, uncertain economic times, and an increasingly chaotic and divisive political climate, and we humans face the choice between empathy and aggression every day.
It is a risky time to live here, and so we must do what humans can do like no other animal: make theater. Because theater brings us together like nothing else, in ways we recognize and in those that are utterly subconscious and physiological. Recently Dr. Joseph Devlin, Head of Experimental Psychology at University College London, completed a study which showed that audience members’ heartbeats synchronize when watching live theater. According to Devlin, “Experiencing the live theatre performance was extraordinary enough to overcome group differences and produce a common physiological experience in the audience members.”
This Live Arts season focuses on the voices that we don’t normally hear in American theater. Nearly 80% of our scheduled productions are written or conceived by a woman or person of color—reversing the ratio that we normally see. And I am confident that our hearts will join in unison as our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and teachers all take the stage to give voice to the living forces that keep us together.