Calgary troupe explores 'sixth sense' with immersive theatre experience

The feeling of intuition is not something that can necessarily be pinned down. But one Calgary theatre troupe is exploring the sixth sense in hopes of understanding what it means to different people.

The Intuition Project uses Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) tasks to evaluate the idea of intuition

One of Ghost River's "artistic researchers" takes an audience through a task as a part of The Intuition Project. (Ghost River Theatre)

The feeling of intuition is not something that can necessarily be pinned down. But one Calgary theatre troupe is exploring the idea of the sixth sense in hopes of understanding what it means to different people. 

The show, called The Intuition Project, is being put on by Ghost River Theatre as a part of Beakerhead, Calgary's annual arts and science festival. 

Eric Rose, artistic director for Ghost River Theatre, told The Homestretch the project is an immersive, sensory experience where they investigate the sense of intuition.

Rose says that, for him, intuition is a feeling you get at a specific moment often surrounding a decision or a instance of fear.

"It might take you on a different path or change your way of thinking about your original intention," he said.

During the interactive Intuition Project, theatregoers follow a group of "theatrical investigators," who since May have participated in a series of experiments such as meditation, Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) tasks, and psychometry readings. The goal is to access and evaluate their innermost intuition.

Rose said the show is 100 per cent true, and started with the simple question of what is intuition?

The group interviewed experts including scientists from the visual cognition lab at the University of British Columbia, a medium and a psychic. They also spent a lot of time trying Edward Titchener's psychic staring effect. 

"We were using ourselves as … guinea pigs," he said. 

Artistic researchers prepare for The Intuition Project. (Ghost River Theatre)

As a part of their research, the group played with a Ouija board, something Rose said many people have deeply held beliefs about. 

"Through all of that experience, we started to realize that we were actually freaking ourselves right out," he said. "And so we're trying to pass that along to the audience."

As a part of the show, the audience participates in an extra sensory perception test. 

"It's basically that feeling you get when you get that sense that someone might be staring at you from across the room, and you get a little bit of the tingling sensation on the back of your neck," said Rose. "And so we reproduced that with the audience.

"We do rounds of five, and we have had a few score five out of five, which is actually quite rare, and a few score zero, which is also equally as rare."

Afterward, Rose said, they have a discussion with the audience about the strategies and why somebody might have gotten five or zero.

"And it's quite amazing, because it often confirms something within the person," he said. 

"For example, my mom actually came to the show and she said, 'You know, Eric, I've always known I'm a very intuitive person, and now that I've scored five out of five, it's confirmed now.'"

Eric Rose, artistic director at Ghost River Theatre, says that through our mental filters we end up creating out own world. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

Rose said that what he has learned through their research and the show is how much people can be influenced. 

"And that's what is so scary is that on a subconscious level we make decisions every day and we actually take in a lot of information that we just filter out based on what we believe," he said. 

At the end of the show, Rose said the audience has the option of using the Ouija board — something a psychic warned them against pre-show. 

"We've literally have people come and say if you play that board, I will have to leave. So [the belief] is pretty strong," he said. "We've had people warn us against the playing of it, that we would bring dark energy into the room if that happened."

Nonetheless, the troupe has gone ahead with the exercise. 

"We're a foolish, foolish bunch. We're really tempting fate in the theater," said Rose. "But I feel like it leads to much larger questions about the way people make decisions, what they believe, the way they operate in the world."

At the end of The Intuition Project, the audience has the option to participate in using the Ouija board, something that some believe brings dark energy into a space. (Ghost River Theatre)

Rose said the audience generally tends to be a mix of believers, skeptics and those who oscillate in between. And it's those in the middle that interest Rose the most. 

"I find that what things freak them out are often the things you don't anticipate," he said. 

With files from The Homestretch.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta,. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson