By: Keith Heumiller, Suburban
Following the success of last year’s TEDx- Navesink conference at Brookdale Community College, event organizers have moved to a new, larger venue and scheduled a wide array of new talks and live acts for 2014.
TEDxNavesink: Play, scheduled for May 10 at Red Bank’s Two River Theater, will feature two dozen talks and performances centered on the idea of play and its impacts on everything from human behavior to business.
“It’s about the value of play in community, in education, in human progress,” event co-organizer Brian Smiga of Atlantic Highlands said.
“People live here, in part, because they are very into play,” he said, referring to residents who are interested in boating and beach-related activities. “Because of that, for example, there is also a strong environmental focus. If we ruin the water, we ruin the core reason we live here.”
TEDx conferences are independently run events that must be licensed by TED, a nonprofit that has been running “Ideas Worth Spreading” events throughout the world for 26 years.
Smiga, along with a number of co-organizers and sponsors, organized the first TEDx in the region in Lincroft last year, centered on the benefits and challenges of life along the Shore.
This year’s lineup features speakers from throughout the region and across the globe, including a Canadian rap artist and award-winning playwright discussing the history of rhyme, and Marie Jackson, a James Beard-award nominated pastry chef from Atlantic Highlands who will speak about the healing power of play.
It will also feature an expanded lineup of musical and comedic acts, including Mike O’Keeffe, creative director of the Improv Jam Comedy Lab in Red Bank, who will discuss how improvisational comedy can be used to become a better human being.
Stanton Green, dean of the McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University, will give a talk on the “Anthropology of Baseball,” tracing its roots and cultural impact on America all the way back to the 17th century.
Other talks, featuring speakers from as far as Chicago, Colorado and the Silicon Valley, will focus on topics such as musical hypnosis, beer, social networking, urban planning, play in the animal kingdom and the role of play in human education.
John Dias, artistic director of the Two River Theater and a 20-year veteran of the public theater, will give a talk titled “Pretending, Art and Life,” explaining why a performance is called a “play” in the first place. For the second consecutive year, tickets for the conference sold out well in advance. The demand was so great, Smiga said, that event volunteers will have to share one of the Two River Theater’s 350 seats during the conference.
“If you were going to design a theater for TED, the Two River Theater is perfect,” he said, referencing the venue’s intimate seating arrangement and proximity to both the Navesink River and local public transportation. “The problem is that we have 700 people who want to go.”
The demand for TEDxNavesink tickets has grown since last year’s conference, which was recorded and later uploaded to the web for free viewing.
Smiga said a number of the talks were even posted to the main TED website and translated into six different languages for viewers across the globe.
“Everything has doubled this year,” Smiga said. “We had over 100 speaker submissions for the 26 spots. We sold out the tickets with over five weeks to go, and the sponsor response is more than double last year.”
The nearly 60 volunteers and organizers who stage the conference have also seen their workload double this year, leading to a new intern program with an inaugural class of five Monmouth University students.
In order to reach the hundreds of interested locals who were unable to get tickets for the conference, Smiga said event organizers are reaching out to area colleges and venues that could potentially host live simulcasts, including some unique live content.
“We could literally broadcast the event to the Count Basie Theatre or to Monmouth University,” he said. “You could have a large audience participate, have their own discussions and hear all the content live.”
Details on the event, including the full list of speakers and a waitlist for tickets, are available at www.tedxnavesink.com.