Senses is a new musical built around the concept of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire itself under various circumstances), and how that plays out in the lives of six different people.
Senses tells the story of two young doctors – a neurosurgeon and a behavioral psychiatrist – who team up to expand the boundaries of modern medicine. They seek to heal and permanently change the brains of three different subjects: a Marine veteran and former violinist who lost his hearing while shielding his troops from a deadly grenade that severed his auditory nerves; an elderly woman with advanced vascular dementia; and a 26-year-old girl with borderline personality disorder who has not left her house in 14 years. Unlike her fellow subjects, Emily was not chosen for this study; having faced over a decade of dead ends, her philanthropist father funded this entire project on the condition that his daughter be included. Resented and unwanted, Emily struggles to have her mental health condition taken seriously by the narcissistic neurosurgeon who would rather focus on the patients with “real problems.”
As an advocacy piece, Senses attempts to diminish the stigma of mental illness by revealing its true nature as a physical illness just like any other, the brain after all being a physical organ and the chemicals and neurotransmitters that control its function being physical entities. The principles of neuroplasticity apply just as much to Emily as to anyone else. And in the end, perhaps the brain most changed of all is not the one expected.