‘Curious Light on the Last Moments of the Naive Mind’ explores empathy fatigue

Northern Illinois University’s School of Theatre and Dance and The Third Onion presents “Curious Light on the Last Moments of Naive Mind,” an original performance piece devised by Evan Forbes, Nyssa Lowenstein and Madeleine Lyons. “Curious Light on the Last Moments of the Naive Mind” will be performed Saturday, April 29 through Sunday, April 30, in the Diversions Lounge of the Holmes Student Center. Curtain times are 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. All non-package general admission tickets are $3. Tickets are sold at the door.

The same team that brought “The Elephant Grief” to the stage last semester, Evan Forbes, Nyssa Lowenstein and Madeleine Lyons, once again address human growth in “Curious Light on the Last Moments of the Naive Mind.” The devised piece will address apathy and compassion fatigue in the face of today’s unceasing news feeds from around the world. Compassion fatigue is a loss of empathy towards others in tragic situations. 

“I find compassion fatigue a serious problem, even for myself,” states director Lowenstein. “How much can a person take before self-care is necessary to feel anything at all? I find myself avoiding televisions and even my cell phone because of how much sorrow is present. I tend to dodge it.” Uncertain of her own attitude, she expects the piece will yield more questions than answers. “Apathy is often denounced as a bad thing, but is it really? It’s seen as a perfectly human response to disappointment, but shouldn’t the apathy dissipate after a period of time? Nowadays it doesn’t feel temporary. We get constant information about tragic events but hardly a clue about how to assist.”

The piece will also trace the evolution of global media from their humble beginnings. Forbes explains: “It began with cavemen passing stories, then there were village gossips and town criers, then news from the next village over. More widespread was a kingdom’s news: paid messengers traveling the countryside with proclamations from the throne. As technology developed, we jumped from hand-written accounts to mass-produced print. How have these media combined to create the phenomenon of world-wide news?”

“And how have they affected the individual, the sexes and cultures?” chimes in Lyons. “There’s a disparity in what people care about:  people become furious over the subjects they research or connect to the most, but what about other instances and other individuals? We want others to share our concerns, but we’re suddenly fatigued when it comes to caring about theirs.”         

“Curious Light on the Last Moments of the Naive Mind” will incorporate television, radio and the internet as entities present on stage.

“Our characters dive into this pool, essentially drowning in stimuli of different types. They’re treading water in a rising tide of reported tragedies,” Lowenstein concludes. “How much does it take to close ourselves off? How do we stay active and empathetic?”

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