Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee

a film/theater/musical performance with text written by Lisa Schlesinger (Greece/USA); music composed by Kinan Azmeh (Syria/USA), film by Irina Patkanian (Russia/USA); directed by Marion Schoevaert (France, Korea, USA).

“Iphigenia: Story of a Refugee” is a ritual, a public lament, a communal trial of modern and ancient wars; a debate about conquering land and women; intimate violence and international aggression; little lies and high treason; refugees called by some “Trojan horses” and Trojan condoms in the pockets of young soldiers sent to Iraq by Bush and Blaire; virgins sacrificed to appease the gods and suicide bombers carrying death in the name of the god. It is a hybrid (fiction/nonfiction) multimedia performance and a creative documentary, a culmination of a multiyear trans-media collaboration between award-winning artists from different countries. The project excavates the mythological character of Iphigenia from pre-classical history, through Euripides’ plays, into the twenty-first century. Iphigenia is the first refugee of war and the central metaphor for questions of forced displacement in global conflict. Through film, theater and music we question the concept of just war, the liminal space and invisibility of the refugees; the differences between immigrant and refugee status, escape and quest, sacrifice and betrayal, the space between Home and Not Home, the relationship of the real to performative in the context of an increasingly televised, militarized, and violent world.

The project is in its development stage, but the idea is to create a “total theater” where text, music, dance and film are one and do not divide in different sections. The actors/dancers/singers on stage are working directly in relation with the film, not only with the images but also in terms of stage choreography since the screens will move. The idea is to create a visceral ritual where the images from far away, of people we don’t know become personal, vivid, facing us, talking to us directly, here and now.

A silent (documentary) film, projected on three movable screens transposes images of refugees from overcrowded boats and camps of Aegean shores, as well as scenes of men and women celebrating a traditional Greek wedding in a Cretan village. On stage, the silent film is “voiced” by actors and a chorus, as the audience members are holding a trial where they hear Iphigenia’s plea, her mother’s accusations and her father’s arguments for war. Sometimes film projected silently is scored live by the Chorus members who take on many characters such as soldiers, refugees, audience members, gods, the oracle, the journalists, the peace activists, war veterans, stage hands, etc.

The actions on stage include choreographed rituals and dances that will generate and sustain the pulse of soldiers going to war, blood-sacrifice of virgin, tribal dance to appease the Gods, the call for prayers, the ritual of birth and celebration of life. The choreography will explore repetition and contrast of war news reports, stillness of tableaux (war photographs), energy and trance. Our film/theater/lament is a sacred burial for the many Iphigenias who disappeared in the Aegean sea, the one who remains in the secret desert prison of Libya, who were raped by the people supposed to protect them, who wander from place to place, from lines to lines. Their names will be said.