Thursday, 8 June 2017

Conscious Dramaturgy: Baba Brinkman @ Edfringe 2017

Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide To Consciousness

17:40 (18:40)

2 – 28 August

(Not 15)

Fringe First winner and "peer-reviewed rapper" Baba Brinkman (Rap Guide to Evolution, Rap Guide to Religion) explores the scientific study of consciousness in his latest hip-hop comedy. Baba's brain consists of roughly 90 billion neurons with trillions of connections, and none of them has any clue that he exists.

And yet those cells come together to produce a steady stream of ill rhymes, laughs, and mind-blowing scientific findings. Come and find out how.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
In 2014 I was hired to perform at a consciousness conference. I had never written any material about consciousness, but the conference organizers challenged me to attend the scientific lectures and write raps each day summarizing their content, which I performed each day to camera for a video blog of the conference, and also performed at the conclusion for everyone attending, including world experts in neuroscience. 

I got utterly fascinated by the subject and decided to write a whole show about it. Also, my wife is a neuroscientist, although I can’t honestly tell whether I wrote this show because I married a neuroscientist, or whether I married a neuroscientist because I wanted to write this show.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
I would say performance is a good space to catalyze the public discussion of ideas, since it provides a common space for thought provocation and a shared experience that audiences can draw on to start a conversation.

How did you become interested in making performance?
I was a fan of poetry and rap in the nineties and I got the idea into my head that rap music and lyrics and culture would be a great platform to bring the traditions of verse theatre into a modern setting. 

My thesis at school was about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and freestyle battling and how similar the two forms were, and in 2004 I brought my first rap theatre show to the Fringe. This year will be my ninth Fringe and my ninth rap theatre show, so I guess the concept is connecting.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
It starts with about six months of reading up on the science I’m exploring in the show, listening to audiobooks and researching online, taking notes and getting to the point where I can have a moderately informed conversation on the subject with a true expert and actually ask pointed questions that don’t betray complete ignorance. 

Then once I’ve got the ideas in hand, I search for characters and social dynamics that will help to bring those ideas to life. In this show I do one rap from the perspective of someone in a vegetative state, one rap about my infant son and why he may or may not have any consciousness at all, and one where I’m talking to an octopus while tripping on mushrooms. 

Those characters were not in the original plan, but they seemed like good focal points for important ideas about what consciousness is and how it works.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?
This is the fifth “Rap Guide” to a scientific subject I’ve brought to the Fringe, with previous shows covering Evolution, Human Nature, Religion, and Climate Change, so yeah, I definitely have a format I work with at this point.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope audiences will experience a profound sense of horror and vertigo as their accustomed confidence in the accuracy of their perceptions and beliefs is dismantled point by point, followed by a cathartic belly laugh as they realize that temporarily losing your grip on reality isn’t such a bad thing, and even if we accept ourselves as biological machines without immaterial souls, everything we value survives the transition except for our superstitious baggage.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Dope rhymes and irreverent jokes, that’s about it.

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