Can technology make us immortal?
This, among many others, is a question asked by a strange and compelling “immersive performance” written by Colin Lalonde. While exploring the ideas of Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, #ThanksBeToRay pushes at our uneasy sense of what precisely is human about the expanding fields of nanotechnology and robotics.
The Singularity worshipped in this church constitutes an advance in technology so rapid that it will rupture the evolutionary development of human beings by 2045 and hurl us into an era of inorganic brain matter.
Certain moments in Nic Turcotte’s polished performance of mad preacher/vulnerable cult leader ring terrifyingly true for our age of data sharing and consumption: “You are an app that constantly deletes ignorance,” he shouts; “The path to purity is public.” As he proceeds to install “upgrades” into a non-believer, played by Jacob Aspler, the stakes grow higher psychologically and emotionally.
Alongside its interrogation of technological advancement, the piece asks questions about what authentic grief may or may not look like. Is artificial intelligence really a debt we owe to the dead? Can meeting your loved ones again in the Cloud make up for having lost them in the first place?
Lalonde, founder of Studio Porte Bleue, is intent on involving his audiences in the performances as much as possible. Participation is built into the structure of the show and demands that each viewer think of themselves at this sermon-turned-group-therapy-session. Sitting on wooden pews, hyperaware of the rising tensions in the room, the show makes it impossible to not question your own stance on the possibility of a Kurzweilian salvation.
Audiences are also encouraged to bring drinks and hang out after the show to discuss, debate and hypothesize together. Engaged and friendly, this seems to be Studio Porte Bleue’s favourite part of the show—challenging those conventions of theatre that maintain an intellectual distance between actor and viewer.
Must man and machine become one? Find out at #ThanksBeToRay, which runs Thursday-Sunday until May 31st. Tickets at studioportebleue.com.