sound-in-silence-promotional-image-smallGwen Dobie, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts

William Mackwood, Assistant Professor, Department of Dance, Faculty of Fine Arts

Gwen Dobie- Artistic Director of Out of the Box Productions- 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 Gwen 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, Gwen lived in a world of silence.

She excelled in school; in dance, music, art. She played French horn and saxophone. She sang in choirs. She danced in shows. Innately artistic and musical, Gwen “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.

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 that controlled sound amplification. Open to innovation and experimentation, Gwen 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 Gwen Dobie. Sound in Silence examines how the brain “hears” sound when the ears are damaged and the phenomenon of neuroplasticity.

Dates of Performance
June 18th-21st
Two shows nightly 7:30 and 9:00 pm
Two matinées on Sunday June 21st at 1:30 and 3:00 pm
Pay What You Can Preview on June 17th at 7:30 pm

Roundtable Discussion with Artists and Scientists
Date: Wednesday June 17, 7:30 p.m.
Location: The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St W, Toronto
Roundtable Discussion to follow the performance
Fees: Pay What You Can


Gwen Dobie, Assistant Professor, Department of Theatre, York University

Frank Russo, PhD

Frank Russo is a musician, Assistant Professor of Psychology, and Director of the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) lab at Ryerson University. An alumnus of York (B.A., 1992), he received his terminal degree from Queen’s (Ph.D., 2002), followed by post-doctoral fellowships in music cognition and hearing science. He is on the editorial board of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain and on the board of directors of the Canadian Acoustical Association. With support from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, his research stands at the intersection of music, mind and technology. He is also co-inventor of the emoti-chair, a sensory-substitution technology designed to provide greater access to music for all people. Although his musical career has yet to blossom, he gigs regularly in his living room with son Robertson and daughter Emma.

Rebecca Todd, Ph.D

Rebecca Todd is a postdoctoral fellow in cognitive and affective neuroscience at University of Toronto and the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. Her research focuses on the influence of emotion on vision and cognition as it develops across the lifespan, as well as patterns of perception and cognition associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and resilience.  She came to scientific research after receiving an MA in dance from UCLA in 1992 and working for over a decade as a choreographer, performance artist, and arts writer in several North American cities.  After performing with the Los Angeles Poverty Department in Los Angeles and Suzanne Miller and Alan Paivio in Montreal, she founded Offshoots dance events in Toronto in 1996. Under its auspices she produced several full-length performance works in Toronto and received numerous grants and awards.  She was also co-artistic director, with Bill James and Natasha Myers, of the Shared Habitat Festival of Art and Science, which produced two arts festivals and a conference on art-science collaborations.  She then returned to school and received her Ph.D. in Developmental Science and Cognitive Neuroscience from University of Toronto in 2008.

Annabel van Baren, Ph.D student

Annabel van Baren is a PhD student at the Division of Humanities at York University, and holds an MA in Women’s Studies and an honours MA in English Literature, both from Utrecht University, the Netherlands. In her research she aims to map the intimate interface between performance art, choreography, and science and technology in Europe and in Canada by focusing on the way in which bodies are brought into motion in intermedial performance environments. She has a fascination for works of art (in the broadest sense of the term) which challenge notions of normality, and has a background in instant composition, Cunningham, Limón, flamenco, and Modern European, and has done some performances (solo and group).

Natasha Myers, Ph.D., Department of Anthropology and Program in Science and Technology Studies, York University / Choreographer and dancer

Production Information

Director: Gwen Dobie

Co-Production Managers: Dan Daleyand Caitlin Fysh

Director of Design: William Mackwood

Sound Designer: Jame McKernan

Composer/Percussionist: Jeffrey Wilson

ASL Interpreter: Joanna Bennett

Dancer: Jung-Ah Chung

Tenor: Bud Roach

Actor: Patricia Tedford

Actor: Joe Bucci

Website link


2 Responses to “SOUND IN SILENCE”

  1. […] June Events: Sound in Silence […]

  2. […] p.m. Frank Russo presents at a roundtable after the Sound in Silence performance at the Theatre Centre. He has developed the Emoti-Chair, a technology that enables the […]

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