A grant from the European Cultural Foundation lands me back in Lebanon for a week of follow-up on “A Drop of Honey,” the script that I left behind for Mike to translate and stage. Mike and his students have done an excellent job, the team reports. The video hasn’t been cut together yet, so I get to live the entire thing through hearsay; little by little I begin to piece an image of the performance together via a mixture of photos, descriptions, and anecdotes.
I meet with the students who performed the piece, and they point out—quite rightly—that coupling the ex-combatants’ civil war stories with their own stories from today will emphasize and clarify our allusions to similarities between the growing civil tensions then and now. Excitement builds. The team discusses re-writes. We draft a proposal for a 2-year plan to bring the piece to 20 schools. We evaluate our remaining budget and plan another showing, this time for potential funders and participating schools.
It’s very strange to work so intensely with and around a piece that you’ve never seen performed. In some ways it feels like a dream, or a game, and the only thing grounding the experience in reality is the faith in the people who report back to you after experiencing the thing first-hand.
While I’m in the country, fighting breaks out in Tripoli, Lebanon's northern hub. It’s on the news, it’s happening in a place I visited last week, and it’s not so far away from where I am now. It’s also the very reason that the five of us decided to write a play about civil conflict, targeted towards a Lebanese high school and university audience. But in many ways, for me, it’s still not “real.”
The fighting in Tripoli continues. A few days after I leave Lebanon, Assaad writes me this: “Ailin if you pray, please pray for Lebanon, for all of us as a team and especially for Ziad and I who are called to many speeches, talks and activities to stop the slide towards a civil war.”
And that’s as close as I get to understanding, and perhaps as close as I will ever get. I re-write the script, and draft grant applications, and keep this blog, and pray. Not because I can feel the weight or “reality” behind any of these things or their effects myself, but simply because they’re real to the people who I care about.