This Is Your Brain On Theatre

by August Schulenburg

in Events

Post image for This Is Your Brain On Theatre

(Photo: Michael Daniel. TCG’s 2010 National Conference)

Last week on TCG’s Facebook page, Megan Sandberg-Zakian asked if we could post the text of Jonah Lehrer’s keynote address:

I’m still craving the full (or even partial) text of Jonah Lehrer’s wonderful keynote at the conference in Chicago… is this out there anywhere? It would be great to be able to share it with others who weren’t able to be there.

Well, while we were unable to record his address for contractual reasons, we were tweeting up a storm as he talked of Swiffers and neurons; and it seems somehow appropriate to Lehrer’s wired ethos to share some of those tweets here.  While the best way to access Lehrer’s electric insights remain through those old-fashioned doohickeys called books, hopefully this will help those who want to peek through the keyhole at his keynote address.

What follows is a more-or-less chronological (though edited) tweetscription of his address. Please note that most of @TCG’s tweets are attempts at summarizing Lehrer’s thought, NOT necessarily quoting him. Non @TCG tweets quote, summarize, and respond to Lehrer.

@TCG: Jonah Lehrer has taken the stage!  “I’ll be speaking why theatre and the arts remain essential in the age of the iphone”
@JessHutchinson: How much do I love Jonah Lehrer? A lot
@TCG: The capacity of delayed gratification in four year olds depends on their ability to redirect their attention
@TCG: This ‘marshmallow test’ is extraordinarily accurate at predicting future success
@AudienceDevSpec #TCG2010 is discussing “how we allocate our attention can impact our success” & sites the “marshmallow test”
@TCG: The ability to strategically allocate your attention is an extremely important cognitive skill – and it CAN be taught
@angelmg: Listening to Jonah Lehrer explain how kids who can delay gratification have higher test scores
@capnjoy Wondering if my boyfriend would be mad if I made out with Jonah Lehrer.
@TCG: We CAN control the spotlight of our intention – being smart is not having a larger working memory, but…
@TCG: …being able to properly control our attention – more important than ever in this age of information
@angelmg: Intelligence is the ability to parse the world controlling for the most relevant parts
@TCG: People with less information about stocks made wiser decisions than those with too much information
@clydevalentin: Art builds the focus muscle in the age of infinite useless information
@TCG: Paying attention to art, especially difficult and complex art, is the most effective way to improve your attention
@angelmg Paying attention to art is the most effective way to strengthen attention skills, improving them across all task
@TCG: Art is the most powerful cognitive workout because of the layers of plot, theme, language
@TCG: Our minds move between local comprehension and global understanding in a work of art
@TCG: art develops empathy- through mirror neurons, when someone else smiles, our mind’s neurons fire as if we ourselves are smiling
@TCG: Compassion has practical consequences – it’s not just charity, empathy through another’s story helps us w/problem solving
@LalaTellsAStory Theatre is life essentialized! RT@TCG:Art is the most powerful cognitive workout because of layers of plot, theme, language
@TCG: Sometimes the hardest part of creativity is finding the problem, not finding the solution
@TCG: Theatre is the most visceral form of empathy
@TCG Why are some cities more innovative than others? San Francisco has generated more patents than any other city – why?
@Trev_Allen: “San Francisco, what is in the water that generates so many patents and so much creativity there?” The arts, baby!
@nickkeenan: recipe for successful city: “we need to find ways to mitigate our isolation.”
@TCG: Cities that invite direct mingling of diverse persons in parks, on sidewalks; intimate inefficiencies yield more innovations
@TCG: Twitter is not the apocalypse
@woollymammothtc Well that’s a relief! RT @TCG: Twitter is not the apocalypse
@TCG: The unplanned nature of the urban ballet is like an email to a stranger – we need the spontaneous sidewalk encounters
@nickkeenan JH: ” Internet positive if used to increase chances of random interactions.” Hashtags anyone?
@TCG: The rapid ride of urban growth is linked to a city’s role as the engine of economic growth
@2amt @TCG: We need to get out of our bldgs and into the world, meet people and listen to their stories as well as share our own
@Bunkieboy Who knew how we allocate our attention could impact our success? Would you have passed or failed “the marshmallow test?”
@chadbauman: The act of explaining what you think to someone from a different background causes creativity.
@TCG: A diverse team is more successful because we are forced to explain ourselves, and by doing so, reach a deeper understanding
@nickkeenan: JL: “mutual incomprehension leads to innovative solutions.” interdisciplinary team collaboration = new ideas
@dloehr @nickkeenan I’d take issue with “mutual incomprehension leads to innovative solutions.” In a perfect world, it might.
@meganstielstra Just listened to Jonah Lehrer keynote TCG; my brain is exploding
@AlliHouseworth I got so opinionated I forgot to tweet.
@TCG Now off to Chicago Shakespeare for the reception!

Above does not include the considerable amount of retweets the  keynote inspired, which grew into thoughtful blog posts from Chad M Bauman, Devon Smith, Tony Adams, and NPAC. Our own Rob Weinert-Kendt used Lehrer’s speech as one of the cornerstones of his American Theatre magazine article, Ideas, Actions and Finding the New Mop.

And while all of this can’t match the conceptual clarity of Lehrer’s keynote, it captures one of Lehrer’s key insights: that the random encounters of diverse minds – whether on Twitter or  a sidewalk outside an arts center – are essential to the creative vitality of a culture.

So what new ideas have you bumped into today?

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