This Unique Theatre Show Uses Neuroscience To Examine The Effect Of Gender Stereotypes

Many of us are familiar with the saying “the personal is political”. In the current political and social climate we’re living in, it applies more than ever, especially in the United States. We can also break down the “personal” into very specific demographics such as being female, being black, being queer, non-binary, immigrant, etc, and then we start seeing just how deeply affected different communities are by politics.

A theatre performance show called ‘Female Role Model Project‘ was created to examine what being female and female-identifying is like right now, all through a unique combination of art and science. The show was created by Tjasa Ferme (creator, producer, actor) and developed with Ana Margineanu (co-creator, director) and incorporates neuroscience for a unique aspect not found in other stage performances.

“The Female Role Model Project is a scientifically enhanced multimedia devised theatre piece built by an ensemble of female-identified artists of differing ages, races, ethnicities and sexualities, exploring old female role models and creating new ones in a world which confronts us with cataclysmic climate change, cataclysmic political change, and the possibility of reprogramming our brains,” says a description.

The show examines gender stereotypes, female heroines, and how these visual portrayals have an effect on us in our everyday lives. This is where the neuroscience comes in.

“We want to document the effect of gender stereotyping on brain activity by providing live EEG brain scans of performers and audience members during the show and watching the feed in real time. We would like to see how our actresses and audience members respond to different female stereotypes on the one hand, and to strong women braving new yet unpaved paths on the other hand. What is the impact on the brain and behavior when we watch and internalize such content?” a press statement explains.

It’s one thing to hear a message or see something visual, it’s another to understand its impact on our subconscious and the way we then live and act in the world because of it. This project is taking our current highly politicized culture to a whole new level by incorporating brain scans for the audience to see.

The Female Role Mode Project team worked with Lauren Silbert, a neuroscientist (Pioneer Works), and Martina Bradic, a geneticist (NYU) in the hope that neuroscience can be a way to spark new discussions of how to change behavior patterns in order to ensure gender equality can be more fully realized in future generations.

“How can we venture into new territory, make new nekurons fire together, creating new connections, and creating new gender possibilities in the brain? And if we change that into a habit, a program, can we change our gender biology epigenetically on a DNA level and can these new patterns be transmitted to our daughters and new generations of women?” the project outlines.

The idea that we need to reprogram our brains in order to truly change destructive patterns and gender stereotypes is one that we would like to see more exploration of, and it seems performance art is the perfect vehicle to do this. With the increasing amount of political divisiveness and continual attack on women and women’s rights, we’re always drawn to discussions on how to rise above the negativity and find unique ways to move forward.

As the project outlines in their press materials, it feels as though we are moving backward as a nation, when you look at the policies, cultural trends, and public role models we see today. There is also the question of what role do women play in these regressive trends, and how we can find better role models in the midst of such turbulence.

“What does replacing Michelle Obama in the White House with Melania Trump mean for millions of teenagers? A white woman still only paid 79¢ to every dollar a man gets paid, debate to make abortion illegal is active again, not a single woman was on the senate committee to rewrite the health care law – and the bill they proposed would severely limit women’s access to contraception and maternity care,” they state.

“The role of women in today’s world and in tomorrow’s America is more fascinating than ever. To what extent are women themselves party to creating these disturbing realities, and who are the role models that inspire us – that’s what we seek to unveil,” they continue.

This immersive, unique project recently performed in New York City for audiences, and we hope to see more show dates being announced in the future. Be sure to keep up to date with any announcements via the Facebook Page, and learn more about ‘The Female Role Model Project’ on their website. You can see a snippet of what the show involves in the video below posted by Tjasa Ferme:


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