|First contact: reserved. What`s that about? And who`s this GUY who wants us to do exercises like at school where you`ve got fifteen minutes to come up with fifty-two adjectives describing blablabla - (shit, I`ve already overshot the 1,500 characters with spaces and this is never going to fit). So WHO IS this guy getting us to do Beach Volleyball to unite the group! (Simon, are you reading this?!) Unite my ass! Hello! We`re French! Individualists! And moaners! We like to make demands. We`re real eye candy too - or so they say. OK! Well, that`s nice to hear, so we won`t deny it! Oh right, and the main question is: `What is Europe?`
Well if we`re prototypes - then it`s all a big mess. And if the others are stereotypes, then we must be too, right? Yes, automatically! Ok then, time for some volleyball. This would never happen in France. I moan and groan - like a proper Frenchie. But in the end, I have to admit, even given all these playwrights who are so different, whose writing is so much a product of their cultures, with references that are rarely identical, something does happen. Something indefinable.
Could this be what is commonly known as the human element? Those magical encounters? When you wind up exchanging life stories with Catherine Grosvenor, whose Scottish anecdotes have you rolling with laughter? And with Juan Menchero, a disciple of the Spaniard Juan Mayorga; with Agosto Silveira, an Uruguayan TV star (by the way, Uruguay`s not in Europe, is it? Damn, that`s really cool, an outsider, from another culture, with a different sensibility); and with David Watson, whose frosty sense of humor is so English? When Simon Stephens and I cry in each other`s arms because we don`t want to leave - after not wanting to come in the first place? When you dance non-stop with Thomas Sauerteig, the talented director in charge of orchestrating our various plays? When you get through the language barrier with Marius (Macevicius), the Lithuanian? When you suddenly understand the Catalan in your play, and in the other people`s plays? And that magical moment on stage - so moving to Simon - when I take a bow with the actress performing my play and she admits crying before the performance because she was so touched by it. What a wonderful gift for a playwright! And the same magic of the theater when we`re taking our bow and Simon thinks I look so much like the actress playing my character (I`ve never seen her before - it`s Thomas who chose her). And then when...
Then there`s the shock of seeing Castellucci`s production, Il Purgatorio, which has me wandering around the streets of Barcelona alone at night and falling in love with the city. Still more encounters. Endless all-night discussions, quick beers, and all the smells, colors, sounds and images being soaked up or pushed away. Hey - that reminds me of one of Simon`s exercises!
I don`t sleep in Barcelona, I party, meet people, dance, and find out that I don`t write like my Anglo-Saxon or Spanish colleagues, who are more focused on narrative structure and creating characters than on the sound and music of the language. I discover that, despite our obvious stylistic differences, in the end my colleague Frédéric (Sonntag) and I strangely agree on our ideas about the theater, which I would also never have expected. (I`ve overshot the 1,500 characters for sure now!) I`m doing exercises outside the scope of my usual world - and it`s making me more aware of what that world is, helping me to affirm and refine it.
I learn to play volleyball and to appreciate the elegance and fairness of Simon Stephens who goes against his Anglo-Saxon sensibility in the final exercise by catering to the French participants: ``You have one hour. Feel free to make mistakes. There are no constraints, no orders. `` (Sorry David, Catherine, Anne, Davide, and the others! The French will be happy. Well, I truly was, Simon. And have to thank you very much.) During the hour that has our colleagues quaking, I write the entire structure of my new play, The Naked Man of Barcelona, and some of the dialogue. This English way of working, so different from my own process, is bearing fruit. Simon, I owe you my new play.
Ultimately, if we`re prototypes, then it`s all a big mess, but maybe we`re not completely screwed? - Because, I forget, the real question wasn`t ``What is Europe?`` No, it`s worse than that! It was: ``The end of Europe, question mark, dot dot dot, et cetera.``
Yeah. We`ll have to see. I say this isn`t even the beginning yet. At any rate it was productive, it was exhausting, it was exhilarating, it was interesting, it was highly contrasting, it was lively, it was... it was...Now I`ve gone way over the 1,500 characters, haven`t I?
Thanks to Victor (Munoz), Toni (Casares), Thomas (Sauerteig), Mireia, the beautiful Fernanda, Gemma and the others for your welcome. To my fellow playwrights - I hope to see you again. There weren`t that many of us, but we took up a lot of space. Let`s hope we soon take up even more.
Oh, one other thing: leaving behind the stereotypes, France`s honor remains intact; in addition to moaning and groaning to perfection, being fiendishly individualistic, critical and well-dressed...we can also dance! That`s right, sometimes cliches get it wrong. And that`s awesome.