Dear Stura Maja,
This is is now my fourth attempt to write a blog entry about our performances on your fifth floor in May. I’m not telling you this to evoke your pity, obviously that would be ridiculous and offensive. I’m telling you this to let you know what a profound impact you have. How you have made me speechless.
Granted, I am a worldclass procrastinator, but this was not one of those times where I didn’t make an effort (I can show you two other attempts, but I deleted the first one). Some say that procrastinators are often perfectionists who are unable to do things because they want the result to be so perfect that the task at hand becomes impossible. This is partly true for me, but most of the time I’m just good old fashioned lazy. Let’s call a spade a spade, you know.
However, when it comes to writing about you and our performance, I can’t find the right words, the right tone. I want you to like me and I want to chose my words carefully.
The first time you awed me was in the winter of 2012. We were working on the performance in Riga and Ivo showed you to us. Even from across the street, I stopped in my tracks. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps I was cold (I was) but the mere sight of you seemed to align my cells in a new way, as if you were setting me up to meet you again. I knew I would. I was certain of it. I think you did that to all four of us, you convinced us then and there that we would have to come back, in hindsight I’m sure we did everything to achieve just that. I did it despite being petrified; what could I possibly say in your presence? What could I tell you that was of any importance given all the stories and lives you had seen already?
And somehow we found ourselves (I say “somehow”, but in all fairness Ivo worked relentlessly to make it happen) sitting in your court yard in May 2014, 9 days before we were expected to perform. We had just taken a tour of the rooms that were used a prison cells and torture chambers during the KGB years. The tour left me numb to everything except you. A divider in time. I’ve had other meetings that have left me numb, but not quite in the same way. For days, every idea I had seemed silly and useless. Everything I wrote, I discarded. I couldn’t even chose rooms to tell stories in. In the end I realized what we – honestly- have in common; we both come from middle class backgrounds, and trite as it is, that was what I could talk about in your rooms. Telling the truth about my life as a middle class princess in a room once designed for middle class princesses seemed alright despite the prison a couple of floors down.
In fact, in a strange way I felt like I was carefully blowing at the embers of what the architect Aleksandrs Vanags had once intended. Though, of course, I have absolutely no idea if he would have liked storytelling performance art. Basement rooms that started out storing tools, became rooms packed with prisoners, and now these rooms are empty and viewed by tourists – people who are free to travel and chose to come and go. For the fifth floor we brought in another group, an audience, adding yet another layer: creating intimacy through distance. Rooms that were designed for children to sleep in, became the nightmares of grown men and now we created a dreamscape of our stories in them. Neither good nor bad, just different. An attempt to open the senses to the rooms and making a portal in time; maybe by tellling our stories – as different and unrelated as they are – other stories would emerge. It seemed that they did. I hope they still do.
Dear Stura Maja, It has been a month now. It’s been three weeks since this blog was supposed to be written, I had promised.
I still think about you every day, like a lovesick teenager. I miss you, and yet it is terrible to think about you. I can’t write this without feeling melodramatic and clammy. When I was sixteen I wrote an epic love poem and my teacher dismissed it as crap. She gave me a B+ if I remember correctly (being ambitious as I was, B+ felt awful, especially since I for once had decided to be honest. “Write what you know” certainly did not do me any good then. And here I am doing an entire performance based on truth and facts). Writing this blog makes me feel the same as back when I was sixteen having my paper graded. I am trying to be honest about my feelings, but all it amounts to is a garbage heap of words. Should I take my feelings out of it?
Dear Stura Maja,
We were awed and impressed by you and the people who work with you. The audience was amazing and we hope we gave them a good experience. We worked very hard. It was unseasonably warm. It rained. Some days were very tough and others were cold. And most of the time I thought about a lot of stuff. Like life. I miss you. Sincerely, xoxo elin