|A FIRST FOR SINGAPORE THEATREThe Stage Club of Singapore has become the first community theatre group outside the US to receive permission from playwright John Guare to present his critically acclaimed stage play:
Six Degrees of Separation
This brilliant contemporary American comedy was inspired by the so-called small world phenomenon – the notion that everyone in the world can be reached through a short chain of social acquaintances. (Just think about it: whenever a large group of people gather to talk, the chances are that some will find they have friends and acquaintances in common). Interestingly, following renewed interest in a bizarre social experiment carried out over 30 years ago, this seemingly trivial social phenomenon has recently become one of the hottest topics in science, and some believe that it could revolutionise the way we think about everything from economic crashes to globalisation.
In order to test the “small world” theory, in 1967 American psychologist Stanley Milgram sent roughly 300 letters to randomly selected people with the instruction to get the letter to a single “target” person (who had to be someone they didn’t know) using only personal contacts. Each “sender” was to pass the letter to someone they did know who they thought would be “closer” to the target. The recipient would then pass it on using the same criteria. Milgram’s surprising finding was that for the chains that reached the target, the average number of steps was six, leading to the phrase “six degrees of separation“.
Fascinated by this theory and its potential impact on the way in which we view each other in a social context, John Guare decided to write “Six Degrees of Separation” – a play that turned out to be a definitive modern commentary on class and manners. This play won the 1990 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play and received numerous accolades. In fact it was so successful that the movie rights were acquired and a film of the same name was released in 1993 starring Donald Sutherland, Stockard Channing and a young Will Smith.
Researchers at the Department of Sociology at Columbia University are currently looking for people to take part in a new on-line experiment to test Milgram’s theory. To find out more, log on to the Small World Research Project website at http://smallworld.sociology.columbia.edu