There was a big rave there last night. That’s all we knew as the bus departed to take us to our third performance site, and frankly, we didn’t think much of it. Our minds were elsewhere: on running through our Greek lines, on watching the scenery shift from mountains to farmland and back to mountains again, on making the most of each other’s company as we near the end of our time here. We arrived and climbed a steep hill up to our performance site, remarking on the surprising sleepiness of the town. “Where is everybody?” we wondered; “why is it so quiet?” We soon found out: they were probably still in bed.

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The bar hadn’t been disassembled. We counted sixteen empty bottles of Bacardi rum (and one that wasn’t quite empty). Hundreds of empty beer bottles littered our performance space. And the kicker: broken glass from smashed beer bottles on all the rocks that we would soon be running, jumping, falling, and crawling on. Apparently Ano Pedina knows how to throw a better party than I’ve ever been to.

We got to work cleaning up the glass and bottles, but to say the least, I (along with the rest of the apprentices) was apprehensive. The space that looked like our rehearsal space in Papingo was unusable—that’s where the heart of the party had been—and we were transferring our show to a space at least three times as large. How were we going to get all the glass cleaned up and restage the whole show in half an hour? Would we be able to shake the anxiety and general bad vibes that were permeating the group?

The really magical thing about this place, this process, and this program, is that we should never have had any doubt. How could a performance fail when you have been gifted a huge, ancient amphitheater-like space in which to bring alive the powerful mythic stories that we’re telling? The same people who had thrown the party the night before arrived to clean up the space for us, excited for the different kind of event that would soon take place. We warmed up, our bodies and voices beginning to fill this majestic, gigantic space with a new energy. And as the sun set over the mountains and the lights of the town square came on, I stood at the top of the steps where our audience would be, awed by the unique opportunity we have to tell this story in this place.

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The Zagori region of Greece isn’t exactly a place you’d expect to see a theater performance on a summer night. This is a place where wild horses and herds of goats are commonplace, where (as James once put it) you can see stars like you’ve never seen them before, where the same teenagers go from restaurant to restaurant to help with service, where a thirteen year old boy will make you a frappé on a Bunsen burner, and where families come from all over for a dose of stunning natural beauty, delicious taverna meals, and perhaps a cup of warm tsipuro with honey on a cool summer’s evening. It’s not an artistic center and our audiences are not used to theatrical conventions.

In Ano Pedina, many arrived between fifteen and thirty minutes late, with one family joining us for only the very end. They love being spoken to; the concept of a fourth wall is foreign here. And you know what? That is what makes these performances so beautiful, so important. When we return, many of us will go back to places saturated with theater: our college campuses, for example, or New York City. We will perform for audiences that see many plays and know how to discuss them, dissect them, and examine them. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but for me what we’re doing here is closer to the heart of what the theater should be—a singular community experience.

For many folks here, the One Year Lease performance may be the only play they see in a whole year. And they are attentive, appreciative, and moved in a way that I’ve never seen before. We have taken the time to learn a play in their language, to tell their stories, to bring this gift to them. And because of this, the work touches our audience at their heart and soul. There is no judgment here, no criticism. Our performance is a conversation about the core of what it means to be human, to be present here and now. As we prepare to perform this for the last time in our home space of Papingo, I remember what John Demos spoke to us about at the start of this program concerning the ancient roots of the theater. It was a communal event, emerging from Dionysian dances, which the entire city would show up to. A chance for a group of people to be together in a space and witness a story that would make them examine themselves and the world. That spirit is what we’re bringing to these villages, and it’s one I hope to carry with me when I’m forced to leave this special, special place.

— Benjamin

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