Sound in Silence

Sound in Silence – (2009) The Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Collaborative Team: Joanna Bennett, Joe Bucci, Jung-Ah Chung, Dan Daley, Christina Faye, Caitlin Fysh, James McKernan, Bud Roach, Patricia Tedford, Jeffrey Wilson

Sound in Silence – (2008) Belfry Arts Centre, Victoria, B.C.

Collaborative Team: Nancy Argenta, Ingrid Attrot, Audrey Bild, Warren Busby, Jung-Ah Chung, Aaron Ferguson, Joyce Kline, Kelby MacNayr, Dawn O’Malley Peter Pokorny, Kirk Schwartz, Patricia Tedford,

The Inspiration

Gwenyth Dobie- Artistic Director of OOTB- a dancer, creator, producer, director, teacher who has thrived in the arts in Canada; a Professor of Theatre at York University; a woman who lives and creates with deafness.

As a child, Ototoxic drugs were prescribed to Gwenyth to control chronic ear infections. Ototoxic drugs damage the hair cells in the cochlea – the hearing organ in the inner ear – and/or the auditory nerve, which carries sound information processed by the cochlea to the brain. This type of hearing loss is known as sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent. For twenty five years, Gwenyth lived in a world of silence.

Innately artistic and musical, Gwenyth “heard” through vibrations, through observation, by using every cell in her body to cope and thrive. She read lips perfectly. Her speech and singing voice was unaffected. She excelled in school; in dance, music, art. Hearing technology offered at that time remained crass and unsophisticated; offering only confusion and chaos. She preferred her refined world of silence to the barrage of noise.

By the mid 80s, technology advanced to a degree of sophistication where hearing aids now utilized computer chips and compression circuits which controlled sound amplification. Open to innovation and experimentation, Gwenyth agreed to try the latest in hearing technology. Her world opened up.

New information flooded the brain; old coping methods were no longer necessary. New processing skills were needed. The brain reprogrammed. Within six months of use, Gwen became unable to function without the hearing aids. Her brain had completely rewired itself. Her old skills (and talents) were lost and new skills (and talents) were acquired.

Inspired by the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Dr. Norman Doidge, and the story of the plastic brain of a deaf artist named Gwenyth Dobie…Sound in Silence artistically explores how the brain “hears” sound when the ears are damaged; and reveals the phenomenon of Neuroplasticity.

 

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