Monday, 10 July 2017

Obfuscating Dramaturgy: Human Head @ Edfringe 2017

Human Head presents: 

theSpace @ Jury’s Inn
4-26 August, 2.15 pm  

Human Head Performance Group teach the art of the deal… kinda
Human Head Performance Group, the New York-based theatre company behind “terrific and very funny” (Culture Catch) play Due to Events, make their Edinburgh Fringe debut with their new play OBFUSCATION this August.

The show is a 35-minute crash course on the absurdities of language in our age of market-tested, media savvy, politically weaponised messaging, and will be at theSpace @ Jury’s Inn for a full run. In OBFUSCATION, audiences are treated to a seminar on the Secret to Words That Work: a cocktail of flattery, lies, and misdirection that will help you exude confidence, manipulate your boss, and evade questioning by the secret police.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Before there was Kellyanne Conway, there was Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and phrasemaker behind such rhetorical gems as “Death Tax” (Estate Tax) and “Arctic Exploration” (oil drilling in Alaska). His rhetorical strategies have been a major contributor to the decline of political discourse in America, and our starting point for this play was our outrage at his morally bankrupt handiwork.

We began to think about rhetorical skill more generally, and came across the international network of public speaking club called Toastmasters. At these clubs, people practice the art of looking comfortable and seeming genuine in front of an audience. Members were generally people looking to advance themselves professionally by taking command of language.

This mix of ideas brought us to the peculiar course in rhetoric called Obfuscation. In it, we learn the rhetorical tricks of those in power in order to survive and rebel against them.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 
Absolutely. It is increasingly rare to be able to sit with complex and multifaceted (i.e. human) issues for a sustained and uninterrupted span of time. Theater is a space where we can do this.

How did you become interested in making performance?
We find this question difficult to answer because making performance has always been part of our lives in some way. We didn’t become interested so much as we never lost interest.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
As Human Head Performance Group, we co-create everything and have developed our own collaboration method (which we also teach as a workshop). We’re both playwrights, so we usually start from developing the text – and that was certainly the case with Obfuscation.  

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A life-changing revelation (we do not guarantee this, but we can hope). A fun 35 minutes. Some things to talk and laugh about later.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Making people feel simultaneously nervous and in good hands; included and slightly disoriented.

Human Head Performance Group is a collaborative new work ensemble composed of Jean Ann Douglass and Eric John Meyer. Jean Ann says: “We’re seeing a breakdown of discourse all over the world, which makes right now the right time to do a play like OBFUSCATION, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the right place to do it. We’re very excited to make our international debut with the show; we hope it will resonate as much in Edinburgh as it has in New York, and that this run marks the beginning of an ongoing relationship with international audiences.”

First performed inside a rented box truck as part of their Truck Project series, Jean Ann and Eric are now bringing this head-spinning play on tour - and indoors - for the first time.

Outside of HHPG, Eric and Jean Ann both work as performers and playwrights. Jean Ann's recent show at Ars Nova got a rave review from Helen Shaw at Time Out New York, and Eric just received a new play commission from Playwrights Horizons.

OBFUSCATION will be at theSpace @ Jury’s Inn (Venue 260), 43 Jeffrey St, Edinburgh EH1 1DH, 4-26 August, 2.15pm. Tickets from £7 (£5), available at

View OBFUSCATION teaser:

Find out more about Human Head Performance Group at

The Edinburgh Fringe run of OBFUSCATION is supported by live arts production company Civil Disobedience. Find out more at

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