Cognitive Contagion: Thinking with and through Theatre

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Theatre offers an opportunity for communities to think with and through fiction. We come together to hear and tell stories because it is moving, both in the literal and the figurative sense: it changes us. Theories from cognitive science of embodied cognition make clear that making sense of theatre is a full-bodied affair. In this essay, I argue that we can see moments when theatre invited its audience to think in new ways by shifting theatrical conventions. I explore how a contemporary production of Hamlet, Pan Pan’s production of “The Rehearsal: Playing the Dane”, brings its audience to question the stability of the self and text by altering the conventions around casting and representation. This is theatre that I may not understand in a traditional way, but this gives me a way to understand a new way of thinking about the world around me. It is theatre I can use.

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