SITI Company at 15 Year Mark

Hotel Cassiopeia.
Hotel Cassiopeia. Photo courtesy of the SITI Company.

The magnum opus of SITI’s season, however, will be the development of a new play, “Who Do You Think You Are,” based on the neurophysiological basis of our beliefs. Now that brain science addresses problems of personal consciousness, neurological research has increasingly addressed the social processes of thinking, i.e. how we live and die by our commitments to particular views of life. Therefore, this is a play about The Brain that actually asks, “If we know more about what’s happening in our brains, inside our bodies, can we stop violence in the world from actually happening?”

It’s a devised work by the company that has been co-commissioned by Arizona State University and The Wexner Center (at The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio).

To master the issues of the play, the company has been immersed in formative writings by cognitive scientists, including Antonio Damasio (“The Feeling What Happens”), Joseph Ledoux (“The Synaptic Self”), John Ratey (A User’s Guide to the Brain”) and Doug Hofstatter (“I am a Strange Loop”). Anne Bogart explains the central thesis of the play by asking, “Can the study of neurology help to change what seems like the inevitable human proclivity towards, for example, violence? On the simplest level, can understanding the chemistry of anger reduce said anger?”

The issues of the play are animated via a fictional quiz show, one that is devoted to the question: if you could re-live a scene of your life, using your knowledge of neurology, might it turn out better? Into that framework are thrown the structure and aesthetics of the Fassbinder film “Katzelmacher,” a film about the circumscribed lives of young working class people, whose societal disillusionment is combined with a healthy dose of violently expressed xenophobia.

The play’s premiere will be in March 2008 at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. That will probably be followed by a production in Columbus in the fall of 2008. A New York premiere has not yet been set.

The SITI Company is: Anne Bogart, Akiko Aizawa, J. Ed Araiza, Will Bond, Brad Carlin, Leon Ingulsrud, Ellen Lauren, Kelly Maurer, Charles L. Mee Jr., Elizabeth Moreau, Tom Nelis, Barney O’Hanlon, Neil Patel, James Schuette, Brian Scott, Megan Wanlass Szalla, Stephen Webber and Darron L West. Megan Wanlass Szalla is Managing Director and Brad Carlin is Associate Managing Director.

Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.