The Performance is an original docudrama exploring the themes of genocide and population displacement through the prism of the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 and the burning of Smyrne. Survivors’ testimonies and the stories of their descendants are interwoven with arresting images and the haunting songs of the time.
Constructed by Yannis Simonides, it is performed by an ensemble of five actors and a rebetiki orchestra of four musicians and a singer. It has been touring the USA and internationally since its premiere in Brookline Massachusetts in 2007.
«……Τι όμορφοι οι Ρωμιοί!… Γλεντζέδες άνθρωποι! Τραγουδιστάδες! Χορευταράδες! Καλογυναικάδες! Didn’t open their mouths for nothing, except to sing for you. To praise you. To tell you, you are a beautiful man, a beautiful woman…. To celebrate all that’s good in you, all your graces and charms. Αν ο Σμυρνιός αναστέναζε….. if he ever heaved a sigh, it was to lament his bondage. And if he sighed, he sang. Loud and clear, open and manly, like a rooster! He couldn’t sigh in secret. He was not cowardly – to kill, to curse, to break, to take advantage of his wife, to make her work for him, to abuse her…. Ο Σμυρνιός είχε φιλότιμο. Κι όλοι του τσ’ αναστεναγμοί και τσι καϋμοί τσ’ έλεγε τραγουδώντας…..
…..Δυο παλικάρια απ’ τ’ Αιβαλί
Μπήκαν στο στέκι του Μπαλή
Και δεν αφήσανε γυαλί στο ράφι
Για τη ζημιά στο μαγαζί
Δώσαν στο γέρο το Μπαλή
Ενα τουρβά ασήμι και χρυσάφι
Πίνανε και καπνίζανε και την αγάπη βρίζανε….
….The songs of Smyrne are many – you can sing them for days! There were songs for everyone and everything – people and places and jobs and professions. And you didn’t have to be a Σμυρνιός to earn your song. If you passed through Smyrne, they would make you a song…..
….And everybody could sing! And did! Isn’t it amazing? Even the street peddlers – they had the sweetest voices, Greeks or Turks, lilting, sharp, they’d cut through the sleeping afternoon like a watermelon seller’s knife!….
….You could hear singing even at dawn, because there were laborers who worked all night in the tobacco fields and were done at first light. So sweet was their music that nightingales would sing along. You can’t even imagine the beauty of it all!…
….Ας μην ξημέρωνε ποτέ
Ας μη φύγει αυτό το βράδυ πούμαστε μαζί
Γιατι μέσα στο σκοτάδι η αγάπη ζεί
Πόσα δεν έχω να σου πώ
Να σε νοιώσω να με νοιώσεις μες στη σιγαλιά
Να σου δώσω, να μου δώσεις χάδια και φιλιά…
……..What happened to those summers of memory? There was nothing in you that could stay dark then, you know? You became transparent, like a drop of morning dew kissed by the sun. You became strong. Solid. Just. You learned to love yourself. You learned to love what mattered, only what mattered. Don’t forget! It’s a sin to forget. Να μη ξεχνάς….»
“…..Have you ever seen a whole city levitating? Tethered by a thousand strings to be rising up toward heaven? Ε, λοιπόν, you’ve never seen, nor will you ever see again such a miracle! They would start on Clean Monday, and then on every Sunday and holiday, until Palm Sunday. Απο του Χατζηφράγκου τ Αλάνι κι απο κάθε δώμα κι απο τον κάθε ταρλά του καθε μαχαλά της πολιτείας, αμολάρανε τσερκένια. The sky was thick with kites, so much so, there was no place for birds. The swallows would wait for Easter, when the skies were clear. For the entire Lent, every Sunday and holiday, the city journeyed to heaven, to be blessed by God. We all looked up, our eyes full of blue, we breathed in the sky, and it filled our lungs, and we floated up to keep company with the angels…”
“……..My mind wanders again and alights on places that hurt, on places I’ll never forget; the pain will cease only when I die. My body is here, in the now, but my mind is there, in the then, in my beloved homeland that I haven’t forgotten, even for a moment. My life all these years moves on its own, mechanically; I believe that all of us who were thrown out, who suffered, who lost our homes, who violently had a new homeland thrust upon us, we’ll never forget our land, τη Μικρά Ασία. We will always ache in the memory, no matter what has happened since; our soul will always yearn for those years, for our roots….”
«…..Το ζεϊμπέκικο στην πατρίδα δεν είχε λόγια. The young lads danced without words – what were they, gods in need of chanting? When the lads danced, they were above the gods. No words. Only instruments. The zeibekiko is ancient, born in the beginning of time….»
“….That we’ve broken their statues,
That we’ve driven them out of their temples,
Doesn’t mean at all that the gods are dead.
O land of Ionia, they’re still in love with you,
Their souls still keep your memory.
When an August dawn wakes over you,
your atmosphere is potent with their life,
and sometimes a young ethereal figure
indistinct, in rapid flight,
wings across your hills….”
(C. P. Cavafy)