Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maya Zbib: Bayt byout

Photo courtesy of the artist and Abed Koubeissy Yesterday, I went to a play entitled "Music Box" which was playing full house. The word was never so literal as it was yesterday because it was actually staged, not in a theatre, but in a house. As I was walking up "Daraj Geara" the one that leads from my house to the Vendome cinema, I saw a poster that the performance was going to be staged in a building Number 30, on the first floor in the house of Aurelien Zouki. The play had been running for three days in that house. Intriguing to say the least. And so I called and booked a ticket (You can do the same while contacting info@zoukak.org - Zoukak being the cultural association producing the work). Some 30 people were attending which in itself makes the venue crowded. Maya Zbib, who was performing "Music box" has based all the work on the emotional relationship which binds women to their houses. Most of the monologue actually starts with "A house begins with" and then she goes on to say the curtains, the lock, the key, the bedroom, the mirror, the kitchen, the basement.... Throughout Zbib intermingles many stories of women - starting from herself and her mother going on to neighbors and to complete strangers. Zbib owns here space masterfully. She is able to walk as if she knows every square centimeter of her "stage" (Which is Aurelien's living room), and when she tripped on a wire she had hung, I was under the impression that it was intential (She later certified it was not but was very pleased I had thought otherwise). The performance also included many boxes as propos, boxes which basically represented memories, secrets, personal spaces and a lot of intimacy. As a matter of fact, the performance which ends in a loop sees Zbib picking up her bag and jacket and leaving the "stage." Before she does so she invites members of the audience to inspect the contents of the boxes by leading them by hand. In an informal interview after the show, I was intrigued about where Zbib lived. "In Hamra" - so immediately I picked up the reference of one of the stories she mentionned in the monologue about a house in Hamra being rented for 3,000 Liras per month.... And she assures me that "the house is rented, but I do not conceive the idea of anyone living there but us." And probing further I ask if she has a room, "I now do, before I used to share it with three sisters. One of them got married, two travelled and later married, so now I have my own room." My questions were simply trying to clarify what she things is private space and what is public space of her and where the "concept of the house" stands in all of this. "I can appropriate any space" she says, "oh, my friends say, there she is, scattering her belongings everywhere." Was this living room a "house" for her I ask? "No, but the place where I changed my clothed and put on my make up was. This is the stage, this is public." This is precisely where I was driving, because at the end of the performance, when she invited the audience to peek at the content of the boxes, I thought it would be rude because by then, her house was a private rathenr than an a public domain. But still, Zbib, through recounting the stories of the women managed to craftily lead us in a world of emotional engagement to objects and places and stones and beads and sewing machines. And on for another house she moves. When we were children, we used to play a game of play pretend which in Arabic we would call "Bayt byout" (Which translates literally into "house and houses"), Maya Zbib is playing so as well, except that her "houses" are actually "homes."

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