Photo by Gianluca Bonazzi Home is the Place of your Soul "What Is Home?" is a Tandem Europe collaboration by Cristina Cazzola and Sophia Handaka. From 27 to 29 October 2016, they have organised a workshop as part of the SEGNI New Generations Festival in Mantua, Italy. Independent theatre producer Martin Rørtoft has participated in the three-day workshop and now shares his reflections. 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- that we built, or even a fundamental distrust- human to human. For the Italian theatre-makers behind this workshop, Danila Barone (Teatro Del Piccione) and Antonio Panella (Teatro Velato), the important questions are: what does it essentially mean to have a home, to be at home or to feel at home? What is Home. Photo by Nicola Malaguti Empathy as a tool for creating common understanding We are sitting in a circle on the floor with our eyes closed, listening to our own breathing. It almost feels like a meditation session, but we – the participants – are not here to find inner peace of mind, we are here to take part in an exploration to discover our own mental process, our search for an inner “essential” space through movement, a performative or even ritual process, in group or through one-to-one exercises. The different sessions of this three-day workshop, whether individual, twosome or in plenary, are all about building a sense of belonging, a sense of place, a to-gether-ness, a temporary community within that side building of Palazzo Te, the palace in the southern suburbs of Mantova, where the workshop takes place. Photo by Gianluca Bonazzi When talking about capturing the essence of the workshop, Antonio Panella explains: “home is the place of your soul, something inside oneself,” 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. What is Home. Photo by Nicola Malaguti Close your eyes for the next three minutes and imagine your day as a movie. Placed on top of a table I sit together with Bertrand, a friendly retired French actor. In silence, we are individually asked to imagine our day – from the morning until our arrival at Palazzo Te – as a movie, and to re-tell it ourselves for three 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 three minutes Bertrand and I had to switch stories and re-tell and memorise each other’s stories in silence for another three 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 two hours of the workshop was that all the preliminary exercises built up to this exact moment of sharing and exchanging stories. And surely, although some of the exercises were kept quite simple due to the fact that this workshop was the first of a series of three, they were key to building trust and a sense of community among the participants. Photo by Gianluca Bonazzi Without giving too much away about the content, I will say that what happens when you provide people with a safe space to perform together in order to strengthen human ties through performative exercises and the sharing of stories, is intriguing. 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 artists that dare to remind us of our own humanity, not afraid to help us identify with the ambivalent experiences of migration and displacement. To identify that we have to understand ourselves in order to understand the other. To identify for us that home can be understood as a mental space as well as a feeling of empathy. What is Home. Photo by Nicola Malaguti Story by Martin Rørtoft, an independent theatre producer who took part in the workshop What Is Home on 27-29 October 2016, during Segni – New Generations Festival 2016, Teatro Del Piccione, Teatro Velato.