David Byrne’s immersive, neuroscience-themed theatre experience is coming to Denver this summer

“Side effects may include a distrust of your own senses, a disorientation of self, and a mild to severely good time.”
3 min. read
The Theater of the Mind Creative team.
Adams VisCom.

David Byrne is many things. The former Talking Heads front man is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a writer, a film director, an actor, an avid bicyclist, and one Emmy short of EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) status. 

He's also a big fan of cognitive neuroscience, and Byrne's latest venture, a partnership with friend and writer Mala Gaonkar, is a visceral theatre experience inspired by neuroscientific experiments. And it's set to debut in Denver this summer.

Presented by DCPA Off-Center and directed by Andrew Scoville, Theater of the Mind is a playful intersection of art and science based on real lab research. The installation, which was initially planned for August 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic, will now run from August 31 to December 18, 2022 out of York Street Yards, a former Army medical supply depot in Clayton.

The experience will invite visitors to explore a 15,000-square-foot immersive art installation, engage in a narrative, and participate in multisensory experiments that encourage guests to interrogate their understanding of the world and their own identities. Audiences will enter in groups of 16 led by a guide, who will escort them on their journey and, throughout their visit, "question how beliefs, memories and even our identities are less fixed than we think."

The show "uses stories from our own lives to shape a narrative you'll see, feel, taste and hear," according to organizers. Because the experiments will be informed by each guest's experiences, no two visits will be quite alike.

"Caution: the brain may wander," organizers said. "Side effects may include a distrust of your own senses, a disorientation of self, and a mild to severely good time. You may not be who you think you are. But we're all in it together."

The idea for Theater of the Mind emerged from Gaonkar and Byrne's conversations about cognitive neuroscience and its social implications.

Gaonkar is a research analyst whose public health work has brought her in close contact with several neuroscience labs.

"The experiments and ideas of the labs we met, several of which we embedded in our narrative, seemed as engaging as any piece of theatre," Gaonkar said in a statement.

As part of their research for the show, she and Byrne partnered with various labs and consulted dozens of neuroscientists. The work of some of scientists is reflected in Theater of the Mind's narrative.

"For me, the broader implications that these phenomena have in our lives, our sense of the world and our sense of self is key," Byrne said in a press statement. "We decided that a kind of narrative, the life of The Guide, told backwards, might be a way to connect these experiences to our daily living... and it might introduce an emotional connection as well."

Theater of the Mind will open at 3821-3893 Steele St. on August 31. Tickets go on sale to the public on May 20, and May 6 for DCPA Subscribers. Stay up-to-date by checking Theater of the Mind's website. 

This story has been updated with the dates and location of Theater of the Mind's planned opening.

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