Looking back I realize that I’ve already spent half of my life abroad, not only residing in different countries and continents, but also as an accomplished traveller. I’ve seen and experienced quite a lot and after my thirstiest country I stopped counting (so as my 13 year old son). That brings me to question about the core of human race and the more I see the less differences I note, here in terms of human nature and human essence. In a way we are all the same and time hasn’t changed that. The first time I came to this awareness was when I was researching for my Portuguese written historical novel Mozart e Catarina. At the time I truly understood why music and art in general is timeless; art touches the very soul; it touches people’s feelings and they don’t change over the centuries, regardless of any kind of scientific and technological progress.
Then a few months back when looking more deeply into director’s Peter Brook and his search for the universal language and understood that there is no such thing. Any person who reads Conference of Birds will understand this. He tried to reach out to many different kinds of people using different theatre approaches, which only proved to be instable. Sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t. That is perhaps because Brook back then may not have reflected upon the context of the word ‘language’ properly. It can be so many things…
After Brook, I researched director Jatinder Verma and from all directors I’ve read about, he is one of the few that understands that one cannot make a single theatre recipe to reach out to everyone in the globe and be successful without being called a culture imperialist. He, and his touring Tara Arts, must adjust technically each show to each global audience and I truly respect that. A director who doesn’t do so might get away if s/he hides behind the ‘education-disguise’, like many touring English-speaking companies do, such as TNT Productions or companies like Beijing Playhouse in China. Perhaps such companies really have the best interest at heart, however it would be at least naïve to ignore that the world no longer works in imperialist ways. Still, the fact remains that these companies only care about their view of the world and expect the rest of the world to catch up.
Still, I see now how complex it is to deal with this topic because all these decisions fall into the director’s hands and s/he must choose the right thing to do, with or without compromises, and then deal with the consequences later. But how to do this?
Working with The Merchant of Venice I came across many ideas on how to develop the play, but the questions hammering the back of my head was: To whom would you present this play? After going back and forth with my research, I decided to appeal for this one thing that does not change anywhere, anytime: The universal emotions and not the universal language. Director Deborah Warner said the very same words: ‘There are only universal emotions. If you can communicate an emotion powerfully, it will communicate to anybody in the world.’ Being so, by stripping the play of a recognizable setting, but giving strong significance of attitude for the main characters, I reach out for the heart after the mind has been made aware.
Being a strong critic of cultural imperialism having been a foreigner for half of my life in different countries, I would like to present a Merchant that touches the feelings of people towards this question: How do I feel about otherness? Do I fear it? Do I attack it? Do I accept it? Do I allow it to conquer me? After answering these questions, the mind will have been made aware and the feeling will take over according to the heart of each unique audience member. In short, I want to corner audience members and make them feel something. If I manage to do that, then I’ll have achieved my goal to offer magic in return of some feeling.
Luciana B. Veit