Home is the place of your soul

Reportage from the theatre workshop What Is Home?



  What is essentially the feeling of home? When you are on your way to take part in a theatre workshop with the evocative title What Is Home, one's thoughts are automatically transported to the urgent humanitarian crisis of the long lasting and ongoing refugee situation in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean region and the lack of political will and ability to solve it. We can even suggest a failure in the systems, we built, or even a fundamental distrust human to human?

For the Italian theatre makers behind the workshop Danila Barone (Teatro Del Piccione) and Antonio Panella (Teatro Velato), the important questions are – what does it essential mean to have a home, to be at home or to feel at home? We are sitting in a circle on the floor with closed eyes listening our own breathe, almost like a meditation, but us - the participants - are not here to find inner peace of mind, however we are here to take part in a discovery to explore our own mental process, our search for an inner “essential” space through movement, performative or even ritual process, group or one-to-one exercises. The different sessions in the 3-day workshop, whether individual, twosome or common, are all about building a sense of belonging, a sense of place, a to-gether-ness, a temporary community inside that side building of Palazzo Te, the palace in the southern suburbs of Mantova, where the workshop takes place. About capturing the essence of the workshop Antonio Panella explains: “home is the place of your soul, something inside my self” and elaborates “this sense of home makes us able to understand other people, to find what is mutual”.
Danila Barone and Antonio Panella, who both work and operate in the area around Genova, create performances and workshops together with schools, hospitals and other places, where they can work with empathy as a tool for creating common understanding – for audiences of all ages.
What Is Home, in particular, is an example of a concept that allows the participating people to play, search and open their minds to themselves and most importantly to other people.      

Close your eyes and for the next three minutes and imagine your day as a movie
Placed on top of a table I sit together with Bertrand, a nice retired French actor. In silence, we are individually asked to imagine our day - from the morning to arriving at Palazzo Te - as a movie, and re-tell it ourselves for 3 minutes, repeating the narrative of the day over and over again in a loop, whilst listening to music that would be the soundtrack of our day. So, after 3 minutes Bertrand and I had to switch stories, and re-tell and memorise each other’s stories in silence for another 3 minutes. In the end we had to present and share our partner’s story in front of the whole group. What a wonderful way to connect with other people across language barriers! So what happened in the previous 2 hours of the workshop was that all the preliminary exercises built up to this exact moment of sharing and exchanging stories. And surely, and though some of the exercises were quite simple due to the fact that it was the first workshop of three, they were used to build trust and a sense of community among the participants. Without giving more details away about the content, I will say, that it is intriguing what happens, when you give people a space where, they feel safe to perform together in order to strengthen the human ties through performative exercises and the sharing of stories. And I think, that is one of the great transformative potentials of theatre today
- the ability to empower people.  
In the mindset behind What Is Home? lies a deep concern for as well as a profound belief in the potential in the power of the inter-relational or inter-personal understanding – a communication between us humans that is under heavy pressure in these present times. Luckily, we still have performing artist who dare to reminds us of our own humanity, who is not afraid to help us identify with the ambivalent experiences of migration and displacement. To idenfy that we have understand ourselves in order understand the other. To identify for us, that home can be understood as mental space as well as a feeling of empathy.

Martin Rørtoft

What Is Home?
* 27-29 October
* Segni – New Generations Festival 2016
* Teatro Del Piccione, Teatro Velato

Photo: Gianluca Bonazzi, Segni2016