A Play For Freedom
For the last year or so I have been on a little journey. If you know my writing or my talks, you’ll know I love journeys! Well this one hasn’t taken me much further than the limits of my new homestead, the wonderful Somerset town of Frome.
A few months after moving to Frome I joined the Frome Friends of Palestine (FFoP) and if anyone read my blog following the Gaza march in London you’ll have an idea of how much this has drawn me in and awakened me to the traumas the people of Palestine are suffering under the duress of Israeli governmental law. It is a complex and distressing situation especially for Jews around the world who are not at all connected to this situation but are, by their very nature of being Jewish, feeling either upset or caught up in the fear mongering of Israeli propaganda. It’s this imbalance that I am trying to reconcile.
After the summer, the FFoP embarked on a grand project to help bring the Freedom Theatre of Jenin, in the West Bank, to Frome. The theatre company had written ‘The Siege’ - set in 2002, during the Second Intifada, inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem - especially for this tour. We were to be one of 12 destinations on their first ever UK tour and I believe we were the only amateur group acting in conjunction with our local theatre, the Merlin. Although I have never been drawn to the fundraising or organizing side of the Arts I thought it might do me good to join the core group and get really involved.
As you can imagine, what happened was way out of my expectations. Firstly, I had to remember that there were many other factors at play here and the whole story will form the main thrust of the book I am writing. But for now I will try to give an overview of the whole nine month period to attempt to make sense of it all.
During the summer I had been lent a DVD, called the ‘Two-Sided Story,’ set in a reconciliation centre in Israel. In September I joined some friends in a new, beautiful meditation group led by my wonderful friend and healer, Louise Chalice and she introduced us to a mantra that worked with your creative fire. At the same time, a teacher at the school I work in told the staff there that she was going to Palestine in the Autumn half term with her women’s football team. She wasn’t going to say anything at first about the trip as she didn’t want to worry her colleagues but she decided to speak up after all my ‘harping’ on about the work I was doing with the FFoP. The first day I saw her after her trip I quizzed her about her time there and she had some very moving stories which of course didn’t surprise me. When she finished talking it came to me to tell her of an image I had been carrying in my head for the last few weeks or so but hadn’t spoken of before. I told her the image and then flippantly said ‘it could be a play, couldn’t it!’
Now, I have already written a book, which is simply me regurgitating my stories, but I have never written a play. However, the following morning I awoke with scenes literally playing in my head. So much so that I had to reach for my iPod, as I have done before, and speak the words into it before I forgot the intricacies of what was being uttered. It was a very busy time for me as I had a gig the following week with a new music venture and also had a great deal of family upset going on but this play was waiting for nothing or no one. In ten days the whole play was written. I did not have to make notes or plans, the structure made itself clear to me as I wrote it and I kept waking with scenes in my head until it was finished. I can’t tell you how exciting it was and I knew it was inspired by the new mantra and the DVD I had watched and the image in my head and everything that was going on for me with the FFoP and the Freedom Theatre. It was a cultural bombardment!
Then after this huge gift, I found I was also surrounded by all the people I needed to help me clarify and correct my mistakes and lack of knowledge in this area. I can’t tell you how amazing and profound this felt. It began with my neighbour whom I knew was a first Nation Canadian actress, she then reminded me, that was her mother’s side. Her father was Israeli and had worked in a peace and reconciliation centre (which you may have already guessed is the setting for my play) for a year and she had visited him there. Again that beautiful warm glow when the synchronities arise and you know that the Universe is playing with you makes all the craziness worthwhile.
As I looked back to see how I had reached this point I began to see how it had actually started way back before all of this. About 15 years, I participated in a meditation on the Middle East, again at Louise’s house and when I went to sleep I remember asking that if there was anything I could do I would be glad to be of service in this area. Ask and you shall receive I hear resounding in my ears.
As I worked with bringing the Palestinian theatre company to Frome and at the same time worked on putting on my play, the two worked beautifully in conjunction with each other and were both staged, though mine was just a script-in-hand rehearsed reading, within two weeks of each other.
Receiving the Freedom Theatre from Jenin in the middle of their visit to the UK was fantastic, knowing that we had played a part in raising the money and organising all the logistics for their time here so that they could put Frome on their tour schedule. They were, of course, an amazing group of people and their production was very inspiring. As the play began I was continually aware that this company has been born out of a refugee camp where resistance is an everyday part of life and each of the actors had their own story to tell.
From the start, as they spoke in Arabic and the surtitle machine was way above their heads, it meant that my eyes were constantly being taken away from the action so my heart remained a little separate. However, what made it difficult to stay disconnected was that they used real film footage projected on to the walls of the church for the events that were occurring outside. It was as the story drew to an end and outside pressure from their own side was entreating them to surrender as they were not the only ones under siege, that the conflict started to ignite between the characters. The moment when one soldier realised he would have to leave his fiancee and homeland for a life in exile and kissed the holy ground, I let go of the translating machine and arrived back in my heart. The complexity of their plight and injustices was so powerful that as the play came to its end and the real footage of the men surrendering was projected onto the church walls I could do nothing but weep.
To me their message was clear: they had made the call, how are we going to answer it?
Up until now I have always found myself left with those feelings of helplessness and guilt. Now I feel a shift.
Although I have no idea how far my play will move beyond the boundaries of this beautiful town I am hoping that it will be my peace offering, my ‘play’ for freedom. It feels only right that I should do whatever I can to honour all of this and I will continue to do so until it has run its course.
My play is called “Return to the Golden City’ and poses a question to the audience: are you ready to move to a place of forgiveness and return to your Golden City, your own truly open heart? The mechanics of the play, which came through me but not from me, I feel, offer a chance to see things in a way that is not often shown and I hope will bring the transformation that is so needed in our hearts.
If you are willing to step out of your anger and forgive on all levels then you are literally saving your soul. In Schindler’s List he is told a quote from the Talmud "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."
I believe we can all do this one by one and I hope you will be willing to join me.