2021-2022,  blog

Moving Into a Sensorial Experience

Part of a printed zine, created by Robyn Grant-Moran for the #BeyondTO festival — In reflection of Scored in Silence, a Theatre Passe Muraille presentation of a Chisato Minamimura production in collaboration with VibraFusionLab

Robyn has dark black hair and fair complexion. She has hazel green eyes and wearing a bright red lipstick, with a black dress smiling

Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis) is a Toronto based writer, artist, and podcaster. While studying classical singing at York University, Robyn became fascinated with Indigenous representation in opera which lead to studying theatre criticism. 

After graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Robyn began writing for theatre publications focused on elevating voices of those historically underrepresented and in 2019, Robyn won the Nathan Cohen for Excellence in Critical Writing Outstanding Emerging Critic Award from the Canadian Theatre Critics Association.

Since then, her writing has been published in Intermission Magazine, The Dance Current, The Toronto Star, as well as the Globe and Mail. Robyn cohosts the Canadian Opera Company’s podcast Key Change, as well as being a member of their Circle of Artists, working for greater diversity and inclusion of Indigenous voices in opera. When not writing, Robyn is often making beaded jewelry as the Salty Magpie, learning how to ride her beloved motorcycle, and still waiting out the pandemic with her wee rat dog in their box in the sky. 

Scored in Silence uses technology to help share the experience of Deaf people who survived the horrific bombing of Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

Chisato leans over to the holo gauze transparent projector screen, as if to create a chalk drawing in shape of a person with their arms wide open

All production photos by: Mark Pickthall

Of the few that survived, Chisato Minamimura helps share their stories of experiencing the explosion, incredible survival, and the aftermath. Added to the physiological effects of living through an atomic bomb, Deaf survivors still had to wade through discrimination and isolation within Japanese society.

With the understanding that everyone uses their senses on a spectrum, each individual having their own unique sensorial hierarchy, Minamimura thought that the use of digital technology could help create a deeply impactful way to compensate for those differences. Moving stories from an intellectual place into a sensorial experience allows audiences to connect to people and stories in ways they might never have been able to before.

The Holo-Gauze™ is a screen that separates Minamimura from the audience allowing for projections to augment her storytelling, share footage of the hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombing) or be imperceptible as needed. Visual vernaculars describe the horrors of that day, allowing audiences to more closely and accurately see what hibukusha were seeing. Lighting and production designer Jon M Armstrong worked closely with Chisato in perfecting the use this technology.

The other piece of technology, the Woojer Strap™, is a device that members of the audience can elect to wear around their bodies.

It’s a vibratory instrument that translates sounds into a physical sensation. The team behind the Woojer™ includes the vibrotactile specialists David Bobier and Jim Ruxton of VibrafusionLab, and sonic artist Danny Bright. Together with the non-auditory language of sign mime that Minamimura uses, the ambient sounds such as a plane engine with a spinning propeller, for example, are also translated into physical vibrations. 

Generally speaking, for a hearing person, the auditory input of a plane engine will take priority over the physical input of the vibrations created from sound waves and energy of the engine.

And in a theatre setting, the recorded sound of a plane’s engine running and propeller spinning don’t have the same physical impact for everyone in the audience, hearing or Deaf.

The Woojer™ allows audiences to experience the power of an actual plane by prioritizing the tactile sensation that can be forgotten when watching a visual representation. This combination of augmenting visuals and making sound tactile has the power to profoundly alter how we absorb the stories in Scored in Silence, allowing for deeper empathy and understanding. 

The atrocity of war cannot be overstated, and it’s Minamimura’s steadfast belief that it should never be forgotten nor allowed to repeat. 

As I write this, Russian attacks on Ukraine are ongoing. Hospitals, schools, the workplaces and homes of Ukrainians have been bombed and shelled. So many lives have been taken senselessly or irrevocably changed at the cruel order of one man and those doing his bidding. This has Chisato deeply concerned for the Ukrainian people and the direction we are heading in. 

Runing May 5 – 7, 2022 at Theatre Passe Muraille

#BeyondTO Festival Scored in Silence May 5-7 2022, From Japan/Uk at Theatre Passe Muraille

A Theatre Passe Muraille presentation of a Chisato Minamimura production in collaboration with VibraFusionLab

A solo immersive show performed in signed mime and ASL, as well as voiced. Up to 50 members of the audience will have access to vibrotactile WoojerTM straps that allow the audience to experience the sound of the production, as vibration. 

TPM is operating at 50% capacity (for this production we will be operating below 50% capacity). Please visit our updated protocols page here.

This is part 2/4 of the whole zine!

This part 2/4 of a printed zine, created by Robyn Grant-Moran for the #BeyondTO festival, which will open Theatre Passe Muraille’s big red doors again since closing to public in March 2020: after numerous postponements, closures, and lockdowns throughout the pandemic — we’re finally here! Follw the buttons to continue reading.