CAIRO EXPERIENCE: Steven Hitt

LPAC’s Artistic/Producing Director Steven Hitt

Privatopia was another play we developed using the funds from our Building Bridges grant.

Privatopia is written by a Greek playwright  and Directed by LPAC’s Asst. Director Handan Ozbilgin Bromley.

The play explores gated communities and keeping the other out. In this case the Syrian refugees from Greece. However, we do not identify a specific country or group of people as the play continues to evolve.

We’ve been exploring the script again for the past several months. It became a much tighter work, and we submitted it to a few festivals.

An exciting story right now is that we just returned from presenting the work at the Cairo International Contemporary Theatre Festival.

It is difficult to explain how well this piece was received. Both performances ended with audience members coming onstage to try and help the refugee left on stage at the end. I couldn’t believe the realistic response to the story these audience members experienced and how they viscerally reacted.

A young woman from Yemen (we later talked to her and got her story) stood at the end of the show and shouted “They are telling our story on stage” “We must act” and then ran to pick up the actor on stage and comfort her. I am watching this from the booth and slow to pick-up everything happening around me. The Lighting technician wants to bring the lights down. I am standing there saying Leave them up! Leave them up!

The young woman is refugee from Yemen to Egypt and later told us she is tired of seeing the world respond to this kind of pain with such passivity she felt the need to react. The need to take action in some way as she ran onto the stage.

As I leave the booth and go out into the house I see the audience has not left. They are surrounding Handan. One young man is say I refused to leave until I could talk to the Director. It’s a cacophony of voices all trying to get their observations out at the same time.

The same young man tells me I was his favorite character (even though he is not a gay). This part I played was originally a throw off. I suddenly realize my character has the ability to say things on stage that people in Egypt cannot say out loud.

This group leaves and there is another conversation between the young woman from Yemen, her mother and the cast of the show. Parts of this conversation have already been covered. I am thinking I’ve NEVER experienced anything so powerful in my professional life in theatre than what happened in this room tonight. I don’t know how to process it yet.

Outside the theater an older woman who has been talking to the characters throughout the show still goes off on me. I am the face of America to her. It is my responsibility to feed the poor, Still an ongoing monologue from her, until I finally had to walk away because our bus was leaving.

So much else came from this experience. I think a large part was the ability of an American company to take the stage in Egypt and have permission to say things that Egyptian theatre companies cannot do in this environment.

I experienced this with an amazing group of artists dedicated to bringing this story to life. Something I will never forget. Something I am still processing and discovering even more nuanced reactions a Sociologist would have a ball exploring.

FOR MORE PERSPECTIVES FROM OUR AWESOME EXPERIENCE IN EQYPT CLICK ON BELOW LINKS>

Handan Ozbilgin    Luisa Alarcon   Toni Ryan

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