It’s Sunday, Day 4 at Culturistan. The work, the thinking, continues to intensify and so we start a little later than usual. Most of us take the opportunity to catch up on sleep and tread a little more softly. Today’s sole reading is ‘Life While You Wait’ by Wislawa Szymborska. We all agree that we are ‘Ill-prepared for the privilege of living/…can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.’ But we don’t on agree on whether we ‘loathe improvisation’.
‘If only,’ Szymborska continues, ‘I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance, or repeat a single Thursday that has passed! But here comes Friday with a script I haven’t seen.’ If only. All of us at some point thus far have expressed this sentiment. But the play must go on. Prepared or not, the stage is set, ‘The props…surprisingly precise’. The poem is a metaphor for life, and the reality of our daily joys and dramas. So far, so obvious. But, as ever, Ahmad pushes us to explore it more honestly — are we improvising, even performing, for everybody here? What masks do we wear in life and in work, and especially when the improv’s not working and we’re scared? In and of themselves, masks are not negative or positive. We could use ‘costume’ in place of ‘mask’, the resulting nuance of which might make it more palatable (whereas masks hide our eyes — windows into our souls, yes? — costumes cover our bodies). Either way, some people need more, others less. And we wear multiple masks and/or costumes for multiple roles. If we’re aware of which ones we’re wearing, and when, and why, perhaps we can use them to better our performance in all the roles we have to play.
Appropriately, the poem brought us to an incredible afternoon with Jul, who regaled us with the story of how he came to write comics, and particularly the resurrection of Lucky Luke. Jul also screened several episodes from 50 Shades of Greece, his new series on Arte, which is a commentary both hilarious and critical on contemporary society and politics through the lens of the stories of the Ancient Greek gods. This set the bar rather high for the next segment of the day — three groups each putting on a performance of Antigone, with wicked inspiration from Jul.
Yasmeen and Iason played Antigone and Ismene respectively, each sending up their own (‘authentic’?!) personalities and interpersonal dyanamic to laugh-out loud guffaws from the rest of us. Carrying over the in-jokes, Estephania, Tara and I played out what to do with Polyniece’s uncovered body — should we reduce (let it be devoured by vultures), reuse (offer it to Cannibals Anonymous), or recycle (bury it)? We buried it, of course, defying Creon, but it was the right thing to do (obviously for the story and the environmental concerns which preoccupy some of us. And, finally, Gelareh and Greg played out Antigone seeking understanding from her therapist.
Jul’s face, a mixture of horror and pain, said all that needs to be said about the quality of our performances. But as we found out later, it did inspire him to write another episode for 50 Shades of Greece. Aptly, it’s titled ‘Antigone with the Wind’. We couldn’t be more thrilled and can’t wait to see it!