Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gardens Speak

Last month I participated in a play, Gardens Speak, part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar festival, that I'm still thinking about.   Here's what I remember:

In an outer room, the guide instructs you to take off your shoes and put on a light raincoat.  

In the next room, you sit on one of two benches along two facing walls.  In the middle of the room is a rectangle with grass, dirt, and ten wooden tombstones--the garden.

You are given a piece of paper with a name in Arabic.

You step into the garden and look for the tombstone with the name matching the one you hold.

When you find it, you brush the dirt off a plaque at the base of the tombstone to reveal the name in English.

You lie down with your head at the base of the tombstone, and the voice of the deceased whispers his or her story in your ear, as if coming from the grave beneath you.

These are all victims of the Assad regime in Syria, many of whom were secretly buried in gardens and parks.  

When you're done listening to the story, you cover the name,  return to the bench, where you find a small notebook in which you are invited to write a letter to the martyr whose story you heard.

You go back to the grave, this time to its foot, and sit a while, as you learn is the custom in Syria.  If you write a letter, you bury it there--perhaps you find letters that others have written.

The letters will eventually be shared with the families of the victims.

Finally you return to the anteroom, where you can wash your feet in a foot bath.

It has been only 45 minutes.

You wish many, many others could share the emphathy-inducing experience you had in that room.

Gardens Speak is the work of performance artist Tania El Khoury, who is based in London and Beirut.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Scoundrel Time

The apt title of Lillian Hellman's memoir of her experiences during the McCarthy era and scathing critique of  the House Un-American Activities Committee, before which she appeared, Scoundrel Time seems at least as appropriate to the present American day, with our scoundrel-led and scoundrel-ridden administration.  So it's an apt name for a new online literary journal that offers a forum for writers to address the issues of our times--something many other literary magazines are doing as well these days.


Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off!

While my friend Christine's boyfriend was watching the Super Bowl, she and I had made a date to do something that would not involve football.  Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off, an all-woman show of comedy and burlesque, at the Kraine Theater,  proved to be just the ticket.  Hosted by comedian Kerryn Feehan, abetted by Jillaine Gill, the show featured two other comedians and four burlesque artists.  Yes, artists. To someone who'd seen little burlesque in the past and had never sought it out, these women were revelatory.  

"Do you think the guys would have liked this?" I asked Christine at the break.  She thought the humor might have been a little too female-centric for them--we'd chortled over bits involving IUDs, boobs, and endometriosis--but said, "I think they'd like the dancing."

Stand Up and Take Your Clothes Off can often be seen at the Kraine, 85 E. 4 St., on the first Sunday of the month at 8 pm---next scheduled for April 2.