2015 Conference Keynotes


Wednesday, August 5th, 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Devising Civic Practice: Theatre, Community and Change

As many communities have discovered, the arts are a potent tool for impact. Artists and arts educators have long known that aligning with community needs has multiple benefits, both spiritual and practical.




Michael Rohd, founder of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, artistic director of Sojourn Theater Company, and faculty member at Northwestern University, will offer insights into developing collaborative projects with community and civic organizations and engaging in needs-focused practice that reveals new ways of using the assets and experiences of artists to build healthier communities, increase impact, expand local civic capacity, meet community needs, build support for and participation in the arts, and engage with diverse constituents in important new ways.


Friday, August 7th, 3:15-4:30 p.m.
Resonate: How effective performance training engages the brain

When we learn a new skill, our brains change. How we learn that skill, and how we practice, affects the changes that our brains undergo. We know that different types of experiences can shape our brains in different ways, providing us with the potential to effectively engage an audience through performance. How can we maximize the transfer from the training environment to the stage? What happens when we learn and rehearse with different mindsets, methods and goals? In this lecture, Dr. Viskontas will provide an overview of the different ways in which our brains change with training, describing the conditions that favor one memory system over another, and underscoring the role of creativity in rehearsal.


Dr. Indre Viskontas is a neuroscientist and opera singer, straddling the line between science and art. She is a Professor of Science and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is pioneering the application of neuroscience to musical training and an adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco. She is also the principal investigator of The Ensemble Project, designed to explore the relationship between music and empathy (www.TheEnsembleProject.com). She has published more than 35 empirical articles and book chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity. She is the founder and director of Vocallective, a vocal chamber music ensemble, and Opera on Tap: San Francisco, a chapter of the nation-wide organization whose mission is to create a place for opera in popular culture. A passionate science communicator, Dr. Viskontas co-hosted Miracle Detectives, a documentary series on The Oprah Winfrey Network. In 2014, The Great Courses released her best-selling 24-lecture course 12 Essential Scientific Concepts. She currently co-hosts Inquiring Minds, a popular science podcast, is a sought-after public speaker, a frequent contributor to MotherJones.com and an Editor of the journal Neurocase.
Saturday, August 8th, 8:15-9:30 p.m.
Echolalia. A window on autism in the style of clown theatre.
Created and Performed by Jen McArthur. A Kallo Collective Production

A young woman on the autistic spectrum prepares for a much needed job interview and society’s social norms are put under the spotlight in this " utterly mesmerizing…utterly relatable " clown theatre show by Jen McArthur. Broadway Baby, Edinburgh
Inspired by the different perspectives, struggles and joys of autistic children she worked with, McArthur’s delightful character Echo doesn’t register social niceties, yet wants to be part of the world. Echolalia sharesan experienced understanding of high functioning autism, "with touching honesty, sympathy and a huge sense of humour” (The Student, Edinburgh) and does it through gentle and hilarious audience interaction, dance and physical comedy.

Jen is a graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, Victorian College of the Arts - Choreography (Melbourne Australia), and Circomedia – Circus Skills and Physical Theatre School (Bristol UK). She then doid further extensive clown training with Giovanni Fusetti (Lecoq school and Helikos), John Bolton and John Wright.

Jen’s passion is in using physical skills, clown and theatre to tell relevant stories and engage with audiences.

She has created two full length dance theatre works, three street theatre shows and two clown theatre shows before Echolalia.
Jen has worked for The World of Wearable Arts Awards Show as Pre show and Character Coordinator, performed with Awkward Productions circus theatre company, Touch Compass Dance Company, and at the Christchurch Buskers Festival to name a few. Jen joined the Finland/France-based physical comedy company Kallo Collective (www.kallocollective.com) after meeting original member and fellow New Zealander Thom Monckton in 2010.

Michael Johnson is an assistant professor at the University of Utah where he teaches first-person neuroscience to nurses in psychiatric training, and maintains a child and adolescent psychiatry clinic as both a psychologist and family psychiatric nurse practitioner . He served as a principal investigator and the head technologist across research studies for the Universities of Utah’s former Magnetic Source Imaging MEG (magnetoencephalography) Program , as well as overseeing a high density EEG lab as part of the Brain Institutes Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab. His early work focused on using neuroimaging for understanding autism, as well as the behavioral genetics of Tourette’s Disorder and OCD. His more recent work focuses on using EEG/MEG neuroimaging to probe compassion, Theory of Mind ability, spiritual states, and emotional regulation in both advanced Zen Buddhist practitioners and school age children. This work has lead him to collaborate with the acting community to create more realistic "live” responses in research subjects while undergoing neuroimaging . His work is ultimately aimed at understanding brain-behavioral relations for implementing new therapeutic techniques within pediatric clinical populations along with developing preventative practices to reduce susceptibilities to mental illness.