NEW YORK – Greek-American Marisa Stefatos directs the new play Upstander Bystander: From Camp to Camp. The New York-based director, producer, writer, actor, drama teacher/therapeutic drama teacher spoke with The National Herald about the world premiere of this unique theatrical production which takes place on Feb. 23 at The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street in Manhattan.
“Upstander or bystander?” That is the question asked by this moving, poignant, and powerful tour de force peace project about the human condition and standing up for what one believes. Spanning from the World War II to the present day, four characters in separate camps explore love, fate, free will, and human responsibility.
Fear of otherness has run rampant throughout history and continues in our day and age. The question is: are we all so different? Upstander is about forging connections in an increasingly fragmented world to avoid the pitfalls of the past and to create peace in the present. Written by Laurence Bohec and directed by Ms. Stefatos with a talented international cast- Geraldine Dulex- appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, Sophie Max, Terence Schweizer, and Samantha Wendorf, Upstander Bystander takes the audience on an unforgettable journey.
Stefatos told TNH that the play is “very intense… and there are a lot of questions that we’re asking, it’s a transformational experience… to dig into yourself, into your own psyche.”
She added that the play is “integrating music as well, one of the actors plays violin and another the flute, then we have a third character a guitar and an oud, each character has a counterpart with a musical instrument.”
When asked about the origins of the play, Stefatos said that the “process started a year or a year and a half ago. I was introduced to Laurence Bohec who wrote the piece originally in French and we were talking about working together, doing meaningful workshops, meaningful theatre workshops. Then we started talking about which theatre pieces we would do and we had worked on When Shall We Build Peace Together, the mother of Normandy piece, I helped her showcase that piece but then we said well, what’s the next step?
“We really want to create theatre that’s interactive, activism that focuses on what’s going on socially, kind of like what the ancient Greek theatre was, a part of society and a platform for exploring situations that occur and that’s what we want to do with this type of theatre and we are also creating a workshop that’s going to happen after the play around March 9 and we want to take this internationally to Greece, to Israel, and to other places and to have workshops, have discussions, and have people create their own projects.
For older people and for young people to create their own projects and to discuss what stance can we take in this world and how can we develop our voice on a creative level, on a social level, on a political level, and create our own works. I’ve been working with Laurence for a whole year and a half since then, we’ve been going back and forth and I translated the piece, I adapted it, and then we founded Colibri Productions- which means hummingbird in French.
“The reason we used hummingbird as our title is because there’s a legend about the hummingbird, a French tale. The hummingbird is a very spiritual bird, it has the fastest wings and fastest heart on the planet and we decided to use the hummingbird. There’s a story about a forest fire and all the little animals, their home is burning down, but there is a little, courageous hummingbird who goes back and forth from the lake and all the other animals watch as he takes little sprinkles from the lake and sprinkles it on the fire, and all the other animals laugh at him and say what are you doing?
You’re so silly you think those little sprinkles are going to do something, and he says well, everybody has to do their part and that’s our motto, everybody has to do their part, we all connect with each other and view what connects us instead of what separates us, we can make things happen we can change the world bit by bit even a small step to have that agency, that free will, a little piece, a little drop, every drop matters, and we’re the birds of Colibri.”
About the play, Stefatos said, “It’s very collaborative and it’s about the questioning process and the learning process and looking at all sides of a question or a certain topic, that’s what the theatre is for us and we see it as a training ground for life and inquiry and a sacred space and that how the ancient Greeks viewed it as well. So it’s a combination, taking the aspects of the ancient Greek theatre and the Brechtian theatre which breaks down the fourth wall convention and melding them together.
And everything comes from love, wanting to manifest and create something beautiful where we can all have a voice no matter how small… really looking into things and reflecting.” Five shows are scheduled for Feb 23-March 3, Stefatos told TNH, adding that they are “hoping to take it somewhere else, to Greece, to the Exile Museum, and we’re talking to various people about taking it to other places. This is the first time it’s being performed.”
“Everybody is passionate about the project, everybody involved is really invested in it,” Stefatos told TNH.
More information is available online: www.upstanderbystander.com.