WorldWideLab

Our Search for Utopia

We are living in a vacuum this year. Sequestered on a Greek island, 8 international directors share a communal space with 10 Greek actors in an old monastery, creating 3 pieces of theatre in 2 weeks. This can very well be the end of my blog or the set up for a joke.  But this can’t begin to touch on our journey here. What has happened since we entered the port of Syros is, as usual with the WWL, difficult to put into words. The alchemy that has occurred here has been a magical elixir of passion, commitment, talent and determination. Syros has welcomed us like a Greek mother’s hug, full of love and history and warmth.  These maze like streets that we navigate nightly for our communal dinners have transported else into another realm.  We are as close to a theatrical commune as we can possibly be, and it’s been an absolute gift.

This year has been a particularly rich experience for me. As a Greek Canadian, my connection here runs deep.  Working with these tremendous Greek actors and designers and listening to the Greek language has filled me with a sense of pride and connection to my history that I haven’t felt in many years.  I find myself constantly moved by the beauty of the language and the passion of these artists here. They are so fiercely committed to the project that their collective energy in rehearsals has triggered many parts of me. I’m processing it all daily.

This year I’m working with my incredible collaborators Chang Nai Wen and Laura Tesman on a new piece we’ve created entitled “Echo”.  Using ancient Greek text, we are exploring the idea of Utopia.  Does it exist? Can it exist within a group? What  happens to the individual within a group? What happens when groups from different cultures convene?  Can they reach Utopia together? These are some of our questions.  Simple, yes? The show is both specific to the current Greek political climate but we’ve created a fable to allow the universality of the themes to emerge.  We quickly realized that this is exactly what we are trying to explore with the Lab itself. We have been trying to create our very own theatrical Utopia for the last five years.  And like any group, we must learn and accept the idiosyncrasies of the individuals within the group while maintaining our own voice and balancing the group as a whole. Not easy, but we are trying. And we are getting better and better.

Every year of WWL grows richer and somewhat simpler as we finesse what we learned from the previous years. I feel like we’ve turned a proverbial corner this year.  We’ve returned to this communal living and working environment that was the genesis for this experiment.   Old friendships have reignited.  Hands are outstretched.  Ears and hearts are open. The communal frantic search for the closest and strongest wifi signal has united us.  The actors have instantly created an ensemble unlike any I’ve seen.  The designers continue to amaze with their ideas and resourcefulness. Collaboration is often times a Herculean effort.  Negotiating three director visions into one unified voice to relay to the cast is both daunting and exhilarating.  The tango we dance with each other is only one of the layers that go on in rehearsals. Our job is to make the story clear .  Again…simple, yes? Well, no. But we persevere. There is a true feeling of solidarity amongst the group.

Through our rehearsals and the illuminating conversations we’ve had with this stupendous cast, I‘ve discovered that Utopia is a fleeting moment. A perfect but delicate balance within a group, all striving for the same outcome. Something we may never achieve, but must struggle for perpetually.  During this week there have been a million tiny moments in rehearsals , or during a conversation, or looking at the view outside my bedroom, or watching an actor connect so deeply to the work, where I feel I’ve found my very own Utopia.  And even if it lasts for just a moment, at least I’ve had a taste. And I want more.

— Evan Tsitsias, Toronto

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This entry was posted on August 29, 2015 by .
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