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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter starts from three specific experiences of contemporary theater—Anna Deavere Smith’s Lay Me Down Easy, Warhorse, and The Rest Is Silence—and interrogates audience reactions from the perspective of cognitive science. I pursue the phenomena witnessed in these audiences—laughter, squirms, and comprehension—as evidencing an embodied, embedded, and extended cognitive event. Contemporary performance, often at the intersection of dance and theater, is staging category shifts related to ideas of the self. Though remaining grounded in the specific experiences at these theatrical events, in probing these experiences this chapter leans on theories of cognitive linguistics, empathy, distributed cognition, perspective, and moral psychology. The theatrical experiences are not better through the lens of cognitive science, but these shifting ideas within cognitive science are rendered clearly on contemporary stages.

Keywords: embodied cognition, empathy, Anna Deavere Smith, Hamlet, Handspring Puppet Co, Warhorse, The Rest Is Silence, Dreamthinkspeak, moral psychology, cognitive science

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