For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-playwright-producer Tjasa Ferme. She is a resident actress at The Cell Theatre Company and PopUp Theatrics. She is also the creator of a short film Ophelia’s Flip (Cannes Film Festival, 2012). Her interactive solo show, Wild Child in the City, premiered and played at the Secret Theatre in New York and has since gone on five European and Russian tours, winning the Audience Choice award at Teden Slovenske Drame-International Theatre Festival of Slovenian plays. To learn more, visit www.tjasaferme.com.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I just completed an Off-Broadway run of The Female Role Model Project at 3-Legged Dog femalerolemodelproject.com. It merged theatre and neuroscience on the subject of modern femininity. It was a scientifically enhanced multimedia devised theatre piece exploring representations of female role models and their evolution in a time of great sociopolitical change and the possibility of transforming our brains. It combined theatrical performance and interactive games with live recordings of neural activity from both actors and audience members using Brainbit and Emotiv EEG headsets.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
There was something percolating inside of me for a long time and through my body of work – a sex-positive farce Cocktales: Confessions of a Nymphomaniac, Wild Child In The City and Marlene Dietrich, a one-woman show – a new thing emerged. My observation was that we don’t have enough female role models who would be powerful, imaginative, vulnerable but invincible in their intent to persevere and make their voice heard, and manage to carve their place under the sun on their own terms to inspire the rest – or perhaps we just don’t talk about it enough. So I started developing a devised theatre piece about female role models paired with high-tech neuroscience and founded my own company Transforma Theatre Inc. with Dr. Natalie Kacinik, Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY, specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience; and NY attorney Jacob Sebag.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes who have had an impact on you and your work?
Sarah kane, Jerney Lorenzi and my parents for allowing me to be a free-range kid. My dad was a rock star when I was growing up and that made a huge impact on me! They always gave me so much freedom in choice making but they also held me accountable. They made it possible for me to explore a lot of things and learn completely from my own experience.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
Innovation and universality, the depth of human experience, taboo topics, absurdity of human existence, the deep mystery of consciousness.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
Well, the next one cooking is a brother show of The Female Role Model Project which will be about men! I want to explore the complex position men are currently in society-wise and what this means for managing their instincts, traditional gender roles and future relationships with women. Look out for the Men Circle or if you have something to share, please holler, we are just in our exploration phase, so are all ears.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
Being on stage five days of the week and feeling really connected with our audiences, them sharing their experiences with us and hearing about their aha moments. Our audiences have been divine. I wanted to meet every single one of them, climb into their head, even have a closure or continuation, something. The reason why I founded Transforma Theatre was to create interactive theatre incorporating science into a live reciprocal format leading to higher states of consciousness, more openness, connectedness – RITUAL, tapping into the inner workings and exploration of consciousness. But only when I found myself creating this space of ritual and reciprocity in the theatre, loving the audience, the interaction with them and the fluidity of thoughts spreading, did I grasped WHY the ritual component is so important.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Psychedelics in theatre, it would be a wonderful way of journeying, healing and witnessing – partaking in an exploration of a more primordial soup states of consciousness. By the way, before you asked me that question I never asked myself that so even I am kind of shocked by my own answer.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Not having enough funding.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
For morning practice I do “fairy yoga,” it’s my conglomerate of yoga with fairy symbols and mantras setting intentions for the day; meditating; running in nature; taking trips and “no-pressure-to-perform-or-be-productive” vacations; and lately I’ve been drawing again as my creative flow and relax time – my favorite activity as a child.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
The constant pressure I put on myself to keep moving, producing, performing, my insane expectations from myself in this short span of a human life.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
Oh! I love the giant painting of Waterlilies by Monet, but I also love a lot of Dali’s pieces. From theatre I love going to the NextWave Festival at BAM. A piece that really blew my mind and made me almost giddy from excitement was Germinal at Under the Radar in 2016. A French production about the concept of language. Amazing!
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
That’s hard. I’ve been thinking about this all day … I like a lot of people and their work but “most admire?” That’s hard. OK, well, right now I say that my current role model is Elizabeth Gilbert – a phenomenal writer and speaker. Not sure I admire her above everybody else for her work even though I obviously “consume” her wisdom. I just love it how deep and yet down to earth and forgiving she is. I admire the author Alan Lightman for Einstein’s Dream; I admire Philip Glass for his Orion series; I admire neuroscientists like David Eagleman, Moran Cerf and Patricia Kuhl. And a lot more … Obviously who wouldn’t wish to be able to write like Shakespeare!
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Bringing science into interactive theatrical experiences, demystifying the nature of consciousness in theatre with audiences as participants.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
An explosion of energy.
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Running in the woods.
Q If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
Slow the hell down.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Hmmm, partially in New York, partially in Italy and partially somewhere in Latin America.
Q: What is your idea of success?
Being able to create cultural movements and changes with my work, being financially supported for the projects I do.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is fulfillment, and my personal fulfillment comes from dreaming up a vision, deciding to make it reality, taking a plunge and then taking a risk. It’s my personal heroine’s journey, almost like a video game. I have to take on something difficult in order to feel satisfied and at peace. So sometimes I’m going crazy with all the stuff but at the same time there’s a part of me that is totally at home in that position. I always imagine somewhat mythically how I am this storm queen riding a huge cloud of lightning and thunder.