Anna Akkash, a playwright, theatre director, researcher and translator, of Syrian and Russian origin, based in Damascus, and currently artist-in-residence at Radar Sofia, had a stage reading of her text “The Tree of Life” on March 5th on the stage of DNK, chronicling life and death in war-torn Syria.
She also spoke about her work with Mraya Theatre Project, a company she recently established in Damascus in search for experimental forms and expressions relevant to the local context.
She opened the floor for questions and comments from the audience.
Anna is a member of the teaching staff at the Damascus Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts (formerly), a member of the Arab Writers Union, a member of the Artists Association / Damascus. She has written a series for the BBC Beirut, has won an award from the Cairo Radio and Television Festival.
Here we would like to share some of the reactions of the people in the audience:
“It was a very brave and powerful piece. War is totally foreign to one who hasn’t experienced it, and the horrors that accompany it could easily make a play on the topic unbearable. This play addressed the topic in such a delicate and personal way, however, that it allowed me to engage fully and completely without reservation. I’m grateful for the perspective the experience gave me.” Nathan Cooper, actor/director
“One of the most powerful stage readings I have ever been to”.
Natalia Alexieva, author, critic
“Anna Akkash and her “Tree of Life”.
Brave and vulnerable, fearless and fragile, honest, strong and important voice. Light in the darkness!
You touched my soul deeply and reminded us what connects us all, what is important and how fragile we all are.”
Milena Stanojevic, theatre director/performer
„The evening spent in Anna Akkash’s company was one of my strongest theatrical experiences of the last year. Not even just theatrical or art-related, but purely human ones. At first glance, she was simply sitting in a chair, reading her play “The Tree of Life” in English, then answering questions, but under the visible surface, I could see her daily routine in Syria for the last nearly ten years. Everyday life with the colour of awound. A trauma that you get used to because it is not a one-off event, but part of the background on which life develops or grows or disappears. But also a trauma that marks you and will never stop chasing you. Catastrophe and destruction, after which both pain and separation blossom, but also the realization that it will all pass and that the life-preserving memories of people, places and one special cat will remain forever indestructable, innocent, immaculate. The meaning is difficult to destroy when it is found and defended like that. I felt as if I was talking to a friend until three in the morning, and after a long separation this frend was finally able to tell me me what had happened since our last meeting. There was hope in the evening for the future of intimacy, at least for me. It was not a cry for sympathy nor an attempt to extract dramatic material and all subsequent benefits off a tragedy in a country. It was a confession bringing one to tears and a testimony for the scale of stoicism and power that one can gather and did not know it could be gathered before certain extreme events take place. I felt grateful that the place where I live and my loved ones were spared by the abyss of war, the utter madness of geopolitics and economic interests.
Thank you, Radar Sofia for creating the opportunity to hear and meet Anna Akkash.“
Stefan Ivanov, writer
“The Tree of life” was an exceptional and a very specific theatrical experience in which we touched on the personal story of director and playwright Anna Akkash and her life in Syria since the beginning of the war.
While experiencing the powerful, emotional account of everyday life during the war, read by its author on an empty stage, I realized that this ascetic theatrical form is the truest way we can approach the personal experiences of people who are still living in the hell and absurdity of war. Against the backdrop of all the television footage that presents us daily with a macro picture of the Syrian war and which is always so terrifyingly similar, Anna Akkash’s words have succeeded in creating a completely different, solid world filled with concrete people, details and life – a life at times almost like the one we live every day.”
Maria Averina, film director/assistant professor at the Film Academy
“Last night, he had a meeting with Syrian theater director, playwright and writer Anna Akash. She read her text “The Tree of Life”. A text about her life in Syria and her choice to stay there during the war. It was a very emotional experience, as if you were transporting yourself to Syria. An experience that brings you closer to the person in his or her essence. It makes a difference when we can have meetings of this kind, especially now, in a time of alienation, madness and propaganda. These are meetings revealing the power of the intimate and the human. I think everyone in the room sensed it, judging by the conversation after the reading. It was from this meeting that I created this poem:”
Radoslav Chichev, a poet, playwright, journalist
Radoslav Chichev shared with us the poem he wrote and it is here in Bulgarian:
Дървото на живота
На Анна Акаш
сега ти си Сирия
усещане за дълбока тъга
за земя за история
усещане за човек
сега Сирия е в теб
история за лудост и надежда
дъждът не отмива нищо
това са бомби
спомените са убежища
в руините на града
къде си ти
какво е Сирия
не можеш да избягаш от мястото което си ти
Оver the course of a year Radar Sofia has brought 12 international artists to Sofia – from Chinese dissident playwright-turned-choreographer Zhang Xian to Venice Biennale Golden Lion winner for 2019 Vaiva Grainyte. Radar Sofia, in collaboration with Aether and Swimming pool, has just started an exchange programme with Akademie Schloss Solitude – one of the major residency programmеs in Europe.
Radar Sofia is a partner within the Helsinki-headquartered network Artist at Risk.