news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Monday, 25 April 2016

Q & A with Suvendrini Lena

Suvendrini Lena is a neurologist who is particularly interested in conditions that explicitly alter the fabric of consciousness – epilepsy, dementia, psychosis and migraine. 

She works as the Staff Neurologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and at the Centre for Headache at Women’s College Hospital. She is a Lecturer in Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Toronto where she teaches medical students, residents and fellows. She also teaches a course called Staging Medicine which is a collaboration between The Theatre Centre and U of T Postgraduate Medical Education.

In addition to her impressive medical pursuits, Suvendrini is also a playwright. Her first play, The Enchanted Loom, inspired by an experience in a neurosurgical OR, will be produced by Cahoots and Factory Theatre in 2016. She is a playwright-in-residence at Cahoots where she is working on a second play entitled Rubble. She is currently scientist in residence at The Theatre Centre where she is developing an interdisciplinary work exploring voice in schizophrenia.

Suvendrini tries to explore a different crevice of her dusty old brain, or someone else’s, everyday.

For inFORMING CONTENT 2016, Suvendrini will speak on the way that our brains process colours, windows, our time webs, and life lines now, in our digitized world.

Q: What would you like us to know about your current work? 

A: I’ve been studying/learning/practising neurology/neuroscience for at least 15 years now. I’m struck by the accelerating pace of change in my field driven in part by the convergence of computation science and neuroscience in efforts to map, and really to transform the nature and boundaries of consciousness. I used to go to science fiction movies (which I love) and think I was watching a vision of the future. Now, I often feel like I’m watching the past. I don’t know who can imagine the future anymore.

Q: Can you tell us about a piece of art that you saw/read/heard that changed your perspective?

A: Einstein on the Beach (Opera, Phillip Glass) –  in which numbers are inherently beautiful and both totally abstract and absolutely real. I felt that I understood something about infinity afterwards. It is four hours long and celebrates repetition and so I saw it twice.

Written on the Skin (Opera, Martin Cripp & George Benjamin) and My Name is Black (Novel, Orhan Pamuk). Both stories about love and murder and medieval manuscript painting. I’m fascinated by the representation of the infinite within the miniscule. The scientific parallel would be the way the cellular and molecular world seems to expand ever inwards as one descends into it through a microscope.

Q: What’s your most creative solution when you’re feeling blocked or stuck in your work? 

A: I walk among tall trees or near water. My favourite strategy is to do it at night. It’s a good way to confront the shadows. 

Q: What motivates you when you’re feeling uninspired? 

A: We live. We breathe. Inspiring, expiring.

I work with people who are often very ill, sometimes dying. In the course of my training I have seen a lot of degeneration, suffering and death, in the young and the old. The knowledge that life is very short and little is truly within our control is ever with me. And so, as long as I am alive, feeling, sensing, breathing, moving, I am not uninspired.

Everyone is welcome to attend Suvendrini's lecture at inFORMING CONTENT 2016. You can register here

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

inFORMING CONTENT Preview: A Chat with Alanna Mitchell

Alanna Mitchell is an award-winning Canadian journalist, and author, who writes about science and social trends. She is a global thinker who specializes in investigative reporting. Her book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, is an international best seller that won the prestigious U.S.-based Grantham Prize for excellence in environmental journalism. Her one-woman play based on that book was nominated for a Dora award and has toured nationally and internationally. For inFORMING CONTENT 2016, Alanna will deliver a talk on the potential reversal of Earth's magnetic poles. Here, she answers some questions about her work and her inspiration. 

Alanna Mitchell

Q: What would you like us to know about your current work?

A: I am working on a book about the potential reversal of the Earth’s two magnetic poles. North will become South and South will become North. As that flip happens, the Earth’s magnetic field, which helps protect life on the planet from solar radiation will decay, becoming only a tenth of its normal strength. The last time the poles reversed was 780,000 years ago.  

Q:  Can you tell us about a piece of art that you saw/read/heard that changed your perspective?

A: Ravi Jain’s Gimme Shelter. At the end of the one-man piece, Ravi left the stage and each member of the audience had choose someone on the other side of the theatre space and physically and emotionally connect — would you let this person drown rather than enter your country? It was shattering.  

Q: Have you collaborated on artistic projects before?

A: Yes! My play Sea Sick was a full-on collaboration that would not have happened without the help of Franco Boni and Ravi Jain. Together we developed a script and then the two of them directed the play while I performed it. 

Q: What was the most unexpected discovery that came out of this conversation?

A: That the process was just as important and the final product. Revelation! And so wildly different from the journalistic process, where it’s all about what ends up on the page. 

Q: What’s your most creative solution when you’re feeling blocked or stuck in your work? 

A: I read beautifully written non-fiction. Or else I sleep and the words come to me. 

Q:  What motivates you when you’re feeling uninspired?

A: Going for long walks. 

Hear Alanna's contribution to inFORMING CONTENT on Friday, April 29, 2016 at 6:30pm at The Theatre Centre. Tickets are free and can be reserved here. 

On May 1, come see Alanna's work interpreted by a group of experimental performing artists led by artistic leaders from Toronto and beyond. Tickets are free and can be reserved here. 

You can learn more about Alanna's work by visiting her website.