Ancient Greek Plays

Letter 7

by Annachiara Vispi

When I was seventeen, my mother came to pick me up at the airport in Rome, where I grew up. I had just spent three days away in Sicily with my high school theatre laboratory; we used to go every year to perform and watch Ancient Greek plays in authentic Ancient Greek theatres. I can still remember the look on my mother’s face when she saw me at the arrivals terminal, tired and giddy and a little tan, hugging my friends goodbye. We knew we would meet in the school corridors the next day, but we also knew those hugs marked the end of our experience as an ensemble, as a team. When we sat in the car minutes later, my mother said to me: “You look so happy.”

I think I began understanding then what I know now about the power of sharing. At the time, I saw it as the power of shared experience: I watched my friendships tighten as my fellow theatre-makers and I bonded over tasks, incidents, and time away together. A couple of years later, when I began my degree in Drama and Theatre, I started seeing the power of shared emotions: I witnessed the transformative power of imagination, and how storytelling could shape somebody’s ideas. It was only very few days ago, as I finished combing through all the submissions for Out of Body, that I recognised that the power of sharing lies first and foremost in the act of sharing itself.

This has been a strange year. The meaning of connection, of shared experience has changed – or rather, we have been forced to find surrogates for it. Yet, as I lost myself in Zoom meetings, Facebook calls and Instagram Lives, I always trusted art to bring me back. Back to reality, back to the present, back to myself. It always worked, be it an online play, a song, or a book. There is something almost spiritual in being invited inside someone else’s vision of the world. During a time like this, when it is easy to forget how togetherness feels like, art reminded me of what it feels like to be human, and that humanity is something we all share.

This is all to say: thank you. Thank you for submitting to us, if you did, and thank you for lending us your attention, if you’ve been watching. Ever since sitting in the audience on those stone benches under the Sicilian sun, I have been a firm believer that a sense of community is essential to our sense of self. The moment I began watching and making theatre is the moment I truly began to understand myself, because I had the opportunity to observe as other people around me investigated their own humanity. I think this is what happens when you engage with art; hopefully, you experienced the slightest trace of it when you participated in Out of Body, as either maker or spectator. I know I did. I felt it: wonder, newness, and for a moment, connection.