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'Star Wars: Identities' Explores Psychology of the Force

A poster for "Star Wars:Identities," a new art exhibit that explores the secret lives of Star Wars characters.
A poster for "Star Wars:Identities," a new art exhibit that explores the secret lives of Star Wars characters. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The words “Star Wars Exhibit” are enough to get both literal and figurative legions of fans out to the museum. Rather than just display a bunch of props, LucasFilm and the team behind "Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology" has developed  "Star Wars: Identities," an extensive interactive Star Wars experience that will open at the Montréal Science Centre on April 19, 2012.

Newsarama recently sat down with Sophie Desbiens from the exhibition’s developer, X3 Productions, about Star Wars: Identities' unique approach to educating the public about the psychology of that universe's most compelling characters.

Newsarama: What was the source of the idea behind Star Wars: Identities?

Sophie Desbiens: The "Star Wars" films have engaged several generations of fans, and viewers of all ages continue to ponder the same questions about the films’ iconic characters, such as: How did young Anakin Skywalker become the infamous Darth Vader? Or what influences and choices made his path diverge so markedly from that of his son, Luke Skywalker? Questions like these are often at the heart of storytelling and mythologies where archetypes are central. They let us explore and try to better understand the components of personal identity, both that of our favorite fictional characters as well as our own.

It is part of the human quest to try to understand “who we are.” Are our parents responsible for our choices? Do our genes incline us towards a certain types of behavior? How do our friends, peers, and mentors influence the paths our lives take? These questions are timeless and universal both for those of us in the real world and for the fictional characters of Star Wars. Hence, what forces shape you?

Nrama: The exhibit is described as a “character-driven adventure into identity.” What does that mean?

Desbiens: It is an exploration into the notion of identity while looking into the beloved characters of the saga, one in which visitors will develop a better understanding of what makes the characters of Star Wars who they are, and at the same time let them explore their own identity with one question, at once simple and profound: What forces shape you?

We will explore the theme of identity through ten components that help comprise individual identity: species, genes, parents, culture, mentors, friends, marking events, occupation, personality and values.

Visitors will learn how these components help shape identity, both in real life and in the world of fiction, using the richness and depth of the Star Wars characters and universe to help illustrate the information in a dynamic and accessible way.

As such for the dramatic arc, visitors will be invited to follow the development of two important characters : Anakin and Luke Skywalker, among many others.

Nrama: Can you describe the overall visitor experience?

Desbiens: Centered around the visitor’s quest to discover his or her own Star Wars identity, the exhibition offers several complementary experiences. The exhibition’s kick-off is 3-minute show that immerses visitors into the universe of the Star Wars movies while introducing the concept of identity. The show finishes off with a call to action: discover your inner Star Wars identity. The exhibition is then structured around ten themes, ten components of identity.

For each theme, visitors can see the collection that is related to the theme, they can listen to audio clips that go behind the scenes to reveal the identity of iconic Star Wars characters and they can watch videos that explain the different components of identity, using Star Wars movie clips. When the exhibition comes to end, visitors are given the opportunity to meet, in a life-sized animated display, the Star Wars-inspired character that they have created during their time in the exhibition.

Nrama: So it's not just items from the movies on display, correct?

Desbiens: What distinguishes this exhibition from previous Star Wars-themed exhibitions is its approach (through the perspective of identity) and the exhibition’s Identity Quest. The Identity Quest is a highly interactive multi-station activity that shapes visitors’ experience from the exhibition’s introduction to its conclusion, allowing them to create their own Star Wars inspired character. The Identity Quest is both a creative and fun way of learning about the components that make up our identity.X3 has designed an exciting event with a new approach to deliver multimedia content via technology. This is much more than a simple props exhibition. Visitors will experience the Star Wars Universe and its characters in whole new way.

In addition to audio and video vignettes, the customized, multi-station interactive quest puts the visitor at the center of the experience by inviting them to ask questions about their own identity. Visitors progressively create a new and unique character inspired by the Star Wars universe that helps provide a deeper understanding of the exhibition’s central theme in a fun and dynamic way. As the characters, stories and objects from the films are showcased in the exhibition, the interactive quest winds its way through the heart of the exhibition and allows visitors to create and share their new Star Wars “identity” afterwards through social media.

Nrama: But there are some of those artifacts on display, right?

Desbiens: Many characters from the six Star Wars movies and the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars are featured in the exhibition. For the moment I do not want to reveal everything but we have some 200 objects featured, and a few dozen have never been shown in other exhibitions.

Nrama: Are you looking to appeal to the long-time fan or the young fan?

Desbiens: The exhibition holds broad appeal for a general public of all ages and backgrounds, including families, school groups, film enthusiasts and will offer a satisfying experience to Star Wars fans and neophytes alike.

Nrama: Where there any lessons from the Indiana Jones exhibit that were applied to Star Wars: Identities?

Desbiens: I would say that it was an easier process in the sense that we now had the experience of working with the LucasFilm team. Everyone knew each other, and who was doing what.

Nrama: Where will it tour?

Desbiens: After the World Premiere in Montreal from April 19 to Sept. 16, it is set to open in Edmonton in October 2012. After that it will take off for Europe, Asia and Pacific for the next 6 years.

Tickets for "Star Wars: Identities" can be pre-purchased at the official website.

This story was provided by Newsarama, a sister site to Follow the conversation on Newsarama's Facebook and Twitter!

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