Tjaša Ferme: “We live in a crucial eco/science/AI/moment and want to be informed and ready to take steps”

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Tjaša Ferme, you are the Founding Artistic Director of Transforma Theatre, “dedicated to creating interactive theatre experiences at the nexus of science, consciousness and ritual”. What part/s of your personal background and experience in theatre has driven you to this complex definition for your organization?

I’ve always been interested in transcendence; as an actress I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it on stage often and it’s always been this mysterious force that beguiled me. After being exposed to neuroscience, quantum physics, epigenetics, my curiosity was piqued, I voraciously started researching and became an obsessed amature scientist myself. It’s such a privilege to live in the age of the internet with Ted-Talks, Youtube, anything and everything being readily available to learn from! I figured perhaps neuroscience and quantum physics could give my eternal questions about this particular mysterious force that takes charge of me when I’m on stage and feels as if I am on a higher frequency and not quite myself, some answers. I started to investigate what gives me this ability as an actress to feel differently, to behave differently, to have access to different knowledge from role to role, how is consciousness of one individual different from another if the manifestation is different? So through Transforma I befriend my fascination with esoteric and mystical with scientific in order to know more. The first being completely a part of theater the way ancient Greeks saw it and by that the ritual meaning a ceremony, a semi-orchestrated activity to get in touch with the Divine and get into one communal rhythm.

Rituals can be done by yourself and therefore the relationship is between you and the sacred but in the theatrical sense, it’s about the whole artistic group along with the audience to get into the same “musical measure” in order to reach to the divine together. Modern science just gives us the tools to observe and learn more about ourselves and the nature of human existence.


One of your first projects in New York was The Female Role Model Project, an interactive theatrical experience celebrating female pioneers. The production received an Honorable mention in the Creativity category of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards and a nomination for the outstanding innovative design at New York Innovative Theatre Awards. Why did you believe it is important to bring into attention the female pioneers? Isn’t this a world in which the feminist wave(s) are already successful? (of course I am playing the devil’s advocate here)…

The Female Role Model Project came out of frustration of always seeing the same stories with the same kind of women represented in the media. I was sick of ingenues and witch hunts! With The Female Role Model Project, I wanted to take a stance against perpetuating gender stereotypes and do a show about unique kinds of women with different kinds of stories. With the neuroscientific component I wanted to show a glimpse of the underlying biology of how we perceive and experience different kinds of role models. The media representation matters, what we see and internalize, affects us — deeply. Who we see favored and promoted become our role models and leave an imprint on our brains and psyches. It’s our responsibility to feature whole, strong, pioneering women, because it has a ripple effect on how women are treated and perceived across the world. There’s a lot of equity we have achieved but a lot of it is still left in the unspoken of what is appropriate or not appropriate for any gender to do, feel, experience. Because of centuries of patriarchy, we are dominated by not just external but inner patriarchy meaning that we judge ourselves or other women expressing something we deem “unfitting for a woman”, so with shows like this we’re just poking into, busting some stereotypes and setting new examples of how we can perceive ourselves and be in the world as women.


Photo: Cristopher Butt


You are the organizer of Science in Theatre Festival which took place in November 2021, including interactive performances created through the collaborative efforts of women scientists and playwrights. Can you tell us more about this concept, the ways the artists and scientists worked together, who are the artists and how did you selected them and what did you expect from the actual event?

 I wanted to create science infused plays, so I partnered playwrights with scientists and created some framework. We were going for one act plays, with three or less characters, that revolve around the research or conundrum the scientists are currently dealing with. Affinity-the first play of the festival is based on Heidi Boisvert’s research, currently developing the first open source media genome, which brings us to bio adaptive media, its delights and traps as the playwright Alexis Roblan brilliantly captured in this play. Zebra 2.0 was based on Niki Athanasiadou’s AI research and the company she works for that developed an AI (artificial intelligence) to study zebra’s markers and patterns. Inspired by that, Saviana Stănescu wrote a funny and heartwarming play about an undocumented night-shift janitor who develops an uncanny friendship with her employer’s main AI. The third play, Eden, is based on the experience of a young researcher Polona Tepeš trying to save a 13 years old patient with a rare tumor. The playwright Wi-Moto Nyoka wrote a thrilling play exploring the presence of the divine in science. So proud in all respects of all of them and the fruits they bore on stage.

I was passionate about the formula of seeing a play, hearing the scientist do a science presentation and then discuss it from different angles through a panel discussion of celebrity scientists, and we were over the moon to discover this format appeals to the audience too, as we were selling out every night. I think this all stems from mass popularity of sci-fi TV shows, but what the audience is lacking is the engagement, reality check, probing what actually holds true in our world, what are the possibilities to get there, the how-or how to avoid that. I think we are all super aware that we live in a crucial eco/science/AI/moment and want to be informed and ready to take steps.


What are your plans for Transforma Theatre and for you personally in New York? Is the local scene completely revived in the aftermath of the pandemy?

A few things; we’re playing The Female Role Model Project at the Cambridge University in UK, I’m cast in a MacArthur Award winning play in 59E59, and we are definitely planning on doing Science in Theatre Festival again! We hope this can be an inaugural affair.

And yes, there’s a new project I’ve been developing that is super interactive and immersive, called Track of Love and Connection (TLC). If it sounds delicious, you’re right – it is, and if you (reader) have connections with Oculus (the space in WTC) and/or funds please get in touch. We need some love to get TLC off the ground.

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