Artist-In-Residence Week IV

In June and July 2014, I will be spending two months as a writer-in-residence at Teatru Salesjan in Malta, creating new work and holding workshop sessions under the name ‘Beyond Borders’. This project is supported by the Malta Arts Fund. Part of the process will be writing down my experiences weekly.

Fever took a few days of my week. During the last session of the workshop on Wednesday evening it felt like I was on autopilot and when I came home I slept until friday morning. Not really, but so it felt. That also meant not visiting the refugee camps, but there’s another chance this week or the next. First I need to find the right people to talk to and take me there.  In the mean time the contestants finalized their 10-minute-plays and I’m very proud to read the result.

This weekend I walked (Yes, in that heat) from San Gwann to Balzan and the San Anton Gardens in Attard via a secret route I found. It was really beautiful and took a lot of pictures along the way. Speaking of which, I’m buying a cable tomorrow as I feel the need to share some of the most amazing places. The Gardens were full of animals and I wrote about my characters with a pink dragonfly on my shoulder and turtles at my feet in the pond. I visited the empty streets of Birgu – one of the Three Fortified Cities – and was amazed by the views over Valetta and the harbor.

And the story developed in a steady pace. The fever allowed me to watch a lot of documentaries and in between the sleeping I read articles on the current situation when it comes to irregular immigration. I collected some lines from the internet, where people are responding to related news item. One I found striking was: “They have no culture, no intellect, no civilization, so what do you expect?” There’s a lot to be found. Mostly negative towards the boats that are trying to make it across.

But back to the play. To include a bit more of the outside of M’dina I included two Border Knights; the people that defend the shores. I also developed that part of the storyline that allows us to feel a constant threat; the forming of an refugee army. It’s hard sometimes not to give the refugees a voice – apart from Ayra – in this play, but it’s not the issue I want to discuss. It’s about the reaction of people when their world suddenly changes, it’s about the receiving end of this problem and it is a way of showing that there might be no solution. When the baby is born and the army is at the gates the Fat Lady stands up, protecting the child and opening the gates for something new. The old – The Silent City – will once again be the place where a new society starts building up. An ending with a bit of hope, as I don’t feel for destructive endings at this point. Well, the play ends – in a way – quite destructive for the remaining inhabitants of M’dina, but shows signs of something hopeful too. I’m not to decide if that’s a good thing. That’s up to the audience.

The words come easily at this point. It’s just a matter of getting the structure right and focus on the development of the characters. Today I danced in the theatre to get my head clear. It’s a bit warm but worth the effort. After that I wrote two new scenes and discussed my progress with James, the artistic director of the theatre. On wednesday I’ll start teaching the beginner’s course. Looking forward to new people with new ideas and creating interesting scenes with them. Half way, one more half to go.

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