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Playwrights corner

 
 
Guillaume Poix
© Sophie Bassouls
Retrouver Babel | Guillaume Poix

Studio européen – La Chartreuse, Villeneuve-lez-avignon| 08-12/07/2015
Obrador d'estiu – Sala Beckett, Barcelona| 04-11/07/2015

I dream in Serbian, waking up in a daze, crisscrossed by Catalan thoughts, utter my first words in English, close my eyes to try and decipher the German they're speaking to me, to repeat a Chinese word without the Croatian accent I've strangely developed over the past three days, delighting in the Swiss and Belgian intonations that make my own language clearly more dynamic, ask again to have those Portuguese notes spelled out for me, and end up forgetting to speak French to my countrymen and women, who are as disoriented as I am.

One could draw a map of Europe – or of the world – with their bodies, an unlikely patchwork of madmen and women: there are sixteen of them (male and female) and they (female and male) have decided to write for the theater, which they work at and love doing in their native countries (Germany, Belgium, South Korea, Croatia, Spain, The Netherlands, Serbia, Switzerland, China, France). Over the course of five days they are on retreat at La Chartreuse, where isolation is no longer the watchword and the troupe is reformed. Each playwright is invited to present a playwriting project around ''childhood'' – a superb word that's hard to define without making it dull or trivial – with the aim of launching a discussion more like an English park than a French garden, and fascinating in any case. The conversations were guided and led by an attentive group including Enzo Cormann, Mathieu Bertholet, Pauline Sales, Fabrice Melquiot and Carles Battle (in an approach similar to Enzo Cormann's studio, designed and developed with Mathieu Bertholet and numerous other male and female playwrights in the writing program at ENSATT). Distinctive writing styles streamed in all directions, their radical divergences too. Katherine Mendelsohn and I tried to "translate" these exchanges into English in a style that was at times precise and rigorous (Katherine) and at other times more poetic (me) you might say, without altering everything that was being said in this gigantic scramble around the table. We got slowed down, struggled, didn't always understand, probably misinterpreted things, and created obstacles through language. In short, we talked to each other.
Then suddenly, as a colossal storm broke, lightning struck not far from us, and the rain cleaned and washed away the surrounding land, we understood that this was Europe: confusion, multitudes, incoherence, and the same visceral passion for diversity, for language, and an infinity of utterances. We understood how much the theater in itself is a metaphor for Europe: you talk to me, I look at you, I love you, hate you and don't understand you – I want more.

I leave my short career as a translator behind and fly off to Barcelona. For ten days, working with seven young European playwrights, I again came up against the Tower of Babel that is ever reforming, growing taller, and I contribute ardently to that splendid, gigantic edifice. Simon Stephens, leading a writing workshop at the Sala Beckett, has us playing volleyball and listening to Sonic Youth, then takes us through the maze of the Gothic quarter for tapas. The rest of the time he talks to us, a lot, makes us write, a lot, asks us about our work, a lot, plants doubts, a lot, and has his own doubts, a lot. We dive in with him.
A family. I have a family now. It has no language, no borders, no harmony. I know Uruguay, Portugal, Germany and Great Britain. I know Catalonia and Spain. I know France.
For we pay these visits not as one would walk through a monument, but as one would invite oneself over to a dear friend's – so that a whole new world will grow of it.

Guillaume Poix
July 12, 2015
 
 
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