Stockholm is the stuff fairytales are made of, which made me realize for the first time in my life that most of the fairytales tell the story of extraordinary experience in reality. WPIC Conference in Stockholm was an extraordinary experience. From the first day to the last everything was extraordinaire. Flowersundefinedextra vibrant. Friendly smilesundefinedextra-sweet. Euphoric energyundefinedextra bright. Parlance amongst playwrights flowed, bubbled, spilled over and splashed everywhere amidst long lines on the first day of registration. The lines disappearing as swiftly as they would in Disneyland. And that is true of cleanliness also. Nothing littered the streets or lakes in the entire city of Stockholm as far as I had seen since I arrived a day early prior to the conference.
The reception in City Hall the first evening in Stockholm was a blend of magic and mystery. Magic that such a private and glorious hall could be reserved for the reception of playwrights, and mystery that such a grand feast could be whipped by volunteers alone since WPI had no funds to begin with and not even a bank account to beg or borrow for staging such an evening of opulence and hospitality. Tall floral arrangements in crystal vases on long tables with white table cloths and laden with Swedish delights were nothing short of a gourmet galore. The Gold Hall with eighty billion mosaic pieces of twenty-two carrot gold was a shimmering castle of folklore and scenic splendor, awesome and breathtaking.
The sense of euphoria kept mounting each day. Play readings from morning till noon in different rooms the entire week, workshops and seminars, evening performances, everything worked like clockwork. A great team of volunteers serving coffee and snacks till late afternoon every day at Sodra Theatre. Lunches were served at Sodra Bar by volunteers most happily and efficiently. Swedish actors and actresses volunteered their time and talents to read plays, juggling from one room to the other punctiliously and cheerfully. Sodra Theatre indeed was turned into a global arena, hosting playwrights from all over the world.
Second day of the conference was marked by Key Note speeches from the Arab World. In the evening a playundefineda woman’s journey of creating new meaning and finding autonomy, In the Lost and Found Red Suitcase was performed by Lana Nasser of Jordan, the winner of two thousand eleven Etal Achman Award. There were several workshops during day three, of which I attended Red Riding Hood presented by Cornelia Hoogland. This workshop was a great success amongst the playwrights who attended, due to the creative input which was highly inspiring and enlightening with its new angle of dark underpinnings of the fairytale.
Another Key Note Speech was given on fourth day by Kay Nicole, Theatre Impact on Children. In the evening an awesome theatrical presentation, Afghan Voices, was performed by the Afghani students, coordinated by Lia Gladstone* the former professor of Drama at American University in Kabul. Several outstanding workshops were hosted day five, out of which I attended Performing Words, very enlightening. The evening play Autumn Dance had a stunning performanceundefinedthe story of three Iranian women resisting Iranian Government Pressure and living through incarceration in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.
The last day’s Key Note Speech was Women Writing Africa, both enlightening and entertaining. Closing ceremony in Green Room was a bit emotional, an evening of tears and farewells. Tears of joy and emotions running high in remembrance of a perfect week in Eden. As for me I thought I had died and gone to heaven? Before our leave-taking, Swedish playwrights were sharing with us Swedish chocolates/marzipans out of their precious boxes purchased with precious money, happily and generously.
The magic world had ended too soon, yet from many great memories two special ones would always capture the essence of Stockholm with its spirit of joy and carefree abandon. Landing at Stockholm airport my husband asked the man in the booth if we needed to go through Custom Checks?
No! The man laughed, waving merrily. This is Stockholm, not USA. You are free. Welcome to Stockholm. Have fun, enjoy. The first evening of reception in Gold Room at the City Hall there were a host of volunteers impeccably dressed, holding out wine glasses to us as soon as we entered. I declined saying I don’t drink wine.
Go to the next table and get non-alcoholic wine, the volunteer waved genially.
Realization dawned upon me with a sudden wave of joy and gratitude that Swedes want everyone to have a good time, happy to see everyone with a wine glass in their hands for the pleasure of making toasts to the hosts and the guests. On my flight back to USA I wrote a poem which I am taking the liberty of sharing.
Stockholm the land of smiles
And carefree abandon
A tapestry of mosaic
In flowers, bazaars, architecture
Silvery, shimmering lakes
And islands aglow
With the warmth of love and unity
Welcome to Stockholm
The man at the airport exclaims
Waving away the question of customs
This is not USA
You are free
His greetings follow us
We enter the lanes of miracles
Not harassed by check-points
Or confronting faces pinched with fatigue
Purity and freshness accompany us
Sodra Theatre, Gamla Stan
Rare wonders of the world
Love in the air
Subtle and perfumed
For more work by Farzana Moon visit her blog
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* Lia Gladstone is a member of ICWP.