I am a regular visitor to Crete, a Greek island. When stories of the refugee crisis on Lesvos began to surface in 2015 I followed them closely. The sheer number of people coming across the straits from Turkey got my full attention. Hundreds of articles and interviews have appeared in the media including raw videos of boat landings and documentaries. I collected images and studied interviews, articles, essays and videos for over a year.
An interest in refugees from Syria began earlier, in 2012 by way of local activist June Magnaldi who was in correspondence with her dear friend Syrian Nuha Askar during the first years of the civil war.
Last September I travelled to Lesvos with my partner Neal Hellman and had the honor of interviewing spokesperson Aphrodite Vati as well as activist Eric Kempson, both key organizers during the crisis of 2015. One of our cast members, Janine Theodore, spent several afternoons with “The Grandmothers” in Skala Sikamineas.
We were met with an overall willingness on Lesvos to discuss the refugee crisis, the people they remember most, the effect on the island and the sense of personal satisfaction they felt in knowing they had done the right thing.
Contributors and cast members Julie Oak and Sam Ritchie and a talented group of performers began work on the theater piece over a year ago. After initial sessions, script drafts and discussion, we decided to present this work despite whatever doubts we had, for several reasons: to showcase the extraordinary example of the people on Lesvos, to show solidarity with refugees fleeing conflict zones, to offer a form of resistance to the U.S. travel ban on Muslim majority countries, and because we are theater artists.
Stephanie Golino & Aphrodite Vati