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What Does a Global Crisis Feel Like? The Between the Seas Festival stages the Mediterranean experience

By MARK BLANKENSHIP

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If we watch the news, then we know that southern Europe is in the throes of a financial and political crisis, but what does that crisis feel like? And if we can get a sense of that experience, how will it change our attitudes about the news?

Those questions are implicitly answered by several pieces in the Between the Seas Festival, a celebration of contemporary Mediterranean theatre, dance, and multimedia work. Running July 22-28 at the Wild Project, it includes boundary-pushing performances from Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Algeria, and more.

The festival lets us experience how artists are grappling with the turmoil in their region.  In the dance piece Amongst Millions, for instance, Portuguese choreographer Pedro Goucha embodies his country's economic upheaval, which included a $100 billion bailout in 2011 and the resignation of financial and foreign ministers earlier this month.

"It's a very static and contrived form of dance," says Aktina Stathaki, the artistic and producing director of Between the Seas. "It represents those feelings of frustration, of suffocation that many people in southern Europe feel right now."

Similarly, in City-State, Greece's Kanigunda Theater Company manipulates narrative forms and official government language to reflect the impact of the Greek economic meltdown. Stathaki calls it "an anarchic piece of theatre," adding that it "very much reflects the identity crisis that Greek people are going through right now."

Stathaki, who is Greek herself, adds, "It's also one of the first plays I've seen in Greece that really grapples with Greek identity in a non-linear, non-well-made-play kind of way."

That's partly why she was eager to include City-State in the festival. Its form reflects how Mediterranean artists are participating in larger, experimental movements.

In Stathaki's experience, it's not easy to find this type of work in New York---or at least not from Mediterranean artists. "My impression is that those Mediterranean communities that are here [in the city] sometimes represent the more folkloric aspects of the culture and also the more isolated aspects of the culture. You will rarely see Greeks, Italians, Portuguese, Spanish together under one umbrella, although there are so many things in common."

She continues, "Those were the two major reason I wanted to start [Between the Seas]---to move away from the folkloric and also to bring the artists together under one umbrella."

Want to know more about Wild Project? Watch this film from TDF's Meet the Theatre series:

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Mark Blankenship is TDF's online content editor

Photo of City-State courtesy of the Between the Seas Festival