WorldWideLab

What I Packed

There is a children’s game where participants sit in a circle and go through the letters of the alphabet, saying one thing that they would pack to take on a journey for each letter, starting with A (which will inevitably be for “apples”) and ending with Z (by which point everyone is tired so Z usually ends up being “zebras”). I saw some kids play this game in the days leading up to my journey to Syros, Greece for the 5th World Wide Lab directing residency. Now that I am here, and we are all four days into the residency (the fourth day being a “tired” day, with the initial burst of nervous energy gone, the pressure of time is starting to really in in and we are still three days from a day off… and someone stole your last apple and the zebras someone packed keep eating your socks), I am becoming more aware of everything I packed and subsequently brought with me on this journey. I thought I would share a few to give some context to the work that’s being done.

Unlike the children’s game, this will not be in alphabetical order.

I packed and brought with me a text to work with, Aristophanes’ “The Ecclesiazusae” (or “The Assembly Women,” or “Women in Power”), a play about a group of Assembly men’s wives who band together and, by impersonate their husbands, get the Assembly to vote in favor for turning all of the political power over to the Women of the city.

I also realized that I packed a certain sense of trepidation towards directing “The Ecclesiazusae,” as the play is in Greek and will be performed in Greek by three Greek actors (and one American actor). Most of this concern probably came from the number of people back in New York who asked me, “how can you direct a play in a language you don’t speak?” before I left. What if I couldn’t do it?

Then there were the many hours of great conversation between me and my wonderful co-director, Jocelyn (Taiwan) about how each of our two performance cultures would be reflected in the way we approach the process. I also packed those.

I knew I would be packing up and bringing all of my feelings about gender, about politics and about the intersection of the two — these are the central themes of the play, after all. But I have obviously also brought my awareness of the ways in which gender and politics are currently playing out in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election in the states, what I learned from Jocelyn about how, right now, in Taiwan, there are two female presidential candidates (one from each the two major political parties) running for office and of course of the current political situation in our host country, Greece.

And I knew I would also find myself packing my questions regarding what role theatre has played and can play and should play in tackling issues of inequality, despair and hope, especially as we come together to make work in and for a place that most of us do not call home. My interest in exploring a modern translation of an ancient text that satirises both the incompetent way that a government is run and the seemingly ridiculous alternative way of life presented as not a real option, but also (maybe) a real option — both in Aristophanes’ time and right now.

I also found space to pack my appreciation for a key moment in the text when the leader of the women, Praxagora, explains the essence of why she wants to do away with any private ownership of land or goods and move completely towards a communal utopia, what she knows the city will gain from living a more communal life: “Communication, guys, connection! Human contact. Depression, that comes from loneliness, is the sickness of our century. Research says that, not me. I can’t stand this anymore: Wall, house, wall, house. It’s getting on my nerves. I’ll knock down every wall and the whole city will become a big home.” What a thought.

And since we are at the end, let’s through in a zebra or two.

Okay, I’m packed.

— Annie G. Levy, New York City

The cast and directing team of "The  Ecclesiazusae."

The cast and directing team of “The Ecclesiazusae.”

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This entry was posted on August 26, 2015 by .