Sunday, May 3, 2015

"A Village Of One" in Morocco

A Folk Opera for All Folk

"A Village of One" is a song cycle with lyrics, melody and stage realization by Paula Jeanine Bennett.  It has been created to be easily adapted for a variety of locations and cultures.  In February and March of 2015, "A Village Of One" traveled to Morocco, where it is known by the Darija name "Village Dial Waheda".  The following is a record of the Moroccan production.

Ensemble finale at the El Mnouni Theater, Meknes, Morocco
from left to right:  Jamaa "Friday" Elabade, Omayma Sdiri, Aziza Matiich, Fatima Zohra Charifi, Paula Jeanine Bennett, Amina Yabis, Fatima Zohra Boutaibi, Khalil Lazar, Sara Moussami, Brahim Daldali
photo:  Otman Elyoubi

"The silent solitude that women always felt and lived had finally found a voice, a sweet melodic echo that can now be sung and heard by many women that met "A Village Of One" and became part of it.  Proud to be one of them."        - Fatima Ouaryachi, ensemble member, 
                                                                       "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda" 

"My experience in "Village Dial Waheda was one of my best and biggest challenges.  It was full of fun and hard work.  The experience was a good idea and it added such lovely things to my life's experiences.  I hopefully wish Paula had the same feeling and that she was proud of working with us."        
                     - Amina Yabis, singer and monologist, "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda"

"It was great to discover a new style of music that tells stories from folklore and also tells what people from our society face every day as issues and obstacles, and how hard a day can be for someone who's going through difficult times and isn't able to express or let others know what they feel.  It's good to find someone who feels then lays what they feel on melody and words."
                                                  - Elias Namrane, American Language Center, Casablanca


A woman stands apart from the crowd.  Feeling more at ease in the world of nature than that of humans, she feels akin to water, earth and clay ("I Am Clay").  She questions her place in the world ("In It But Not Of It") and comments on the challenge of finding one's way ("Honeycomb").  Yet she is not the only person searching for identity.  A line of women sing of the inner self and the outer world ("The World Inside").  One young woman leaves the security of the group ("His Open Hand"),  holding her infant.  The woman apart sings that in her home and in her heart she has created her own world ("A Village Of One").   Deep in the night she is discovered by a demon (Boujloud) searching for fresh meat and a fight ensues.  In the tumult of battle, the demon runs off,  knocking the young woman and infant to the ground.  The moment of truth arrives.  Does the woman apart help or turn away?  She goes to assist, holds the infant, however tentatively, realizing change starts with one small step ("One Small Step").  The community gathers around her and she is welcomed into the village ("Like Jasmine").  She realizes that she was never alone.  They dance.

On the bright, cool morning of February 1, 2015, I traveled to the traditional market town of Sefrou, Morocco, nestled in the middle Atlas mountains, to start a one-month arts residency.  The arts hosting organization Culture Vultures  had invited me to expand and restage my folk opera "A Village Of One".  The director, Jess Stephens, wanted to stretch the concept of an artisanal exchange and find out what the presentation of that could be at the end of the residency.  This was the organization's first hosting of a theater production, so the goal of all was to expand our horizons.  I had been having much fruitful email and skype exchange with Jess before I arrived in Sefrou and was coming with a ready heart.

I'd have one month to teach and stage "Village", culminating in full-cast performances in three cities, and smaller versions in three more.  I had no idea what to expect of Sefrou save what I had read in the travel books and seen online.  I would be staying in the ancient medina, with narrow streets that no cars could drive through.  My suitcases were taken from the taxi and moved through town by handcart.  I would be staying at the only guest house in the old town.

The view from the doorway
My guesthouse


Some preparation had been done for the residency while I was still in Brooklyn.  I came armed with my Darija song lyric translations ("Finding Khadija").  I'd also arranged for one of the important props of the show to be made in Morocco, the "Humanudu", a baby-shaped drum that sounds like a heartbeat when played.  In the Java, Indonesia incarnation of "Village" the baby had been made from clay.  I wanted to have a wooden version of the instrument made for this production.  The realization of this idea came from Faouzi Saouli, an oud maker and friend of Jess'.  I made a model from wire mesh and duct tape in Brooklyn and mailed it to Faouzi's workshop in Casablanca.  Right before I left for Morocco Jess told me that the instrument was finished and was waiting for me in Sefrou!

Original clay Humanudu from Java & wire/duct tape model

The Moroccan Human-oud-u!
Fatima Zohra Charifi holds the baby in performance (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

The next day was Monday and my work began.  I was given an office in a building constructed around a central courtyard.  Once a hotel, it was now primarily used by tailors making traditional Moroccan robes.  I unpacked and arranged my workspace.

A desk, a table, a chair.......

...and a wall for keeping tasks on schedule
Much had to be prepared.  I had divided the production chores into four categories:  Props, Paula, Place and People.  Assembling a cast was a priority, especially instrumental musicians and members of the choir.  The host organization had several imaginative ideas to find possible participants.  A couscous jam and several singing parties were planned.  

The couscous jam was held in a villa that Culture Vultures maintains for gatherings and artist housing.  The chicken couscous was delicious, and offered before the musical part of the program. 

The couscous party:  no plates, just spoons around some tasty platters

Musicians had been invited from a 90-mile radius.  I was especially interested in finding players of oud, violin and percussion.  My husband, pianist Richard Bennett, was with me during the first week of the residency.  Our plan was to present some of the "Village" songs to the assembled and have folks play them with us in groups of two and three.  

Paula and Richard start the songs

After that, music was played covering a large range of Moroccan styles.  Amazigh (Berber) and Arabic classical material featured prominently.  Some people had come to just listen, and a few of them sat on the floor drinking glasses of hot and sweet mint tea or danced on the sidelines. 
Happy times in the villa
Then there were the singing parties.  They were held at the local women's center.  Handbills had been posted in Sefrou and calls had been made to spread the word.  Over forty women crowded into a cold room to participate, some with babies on their laps.  I led warm-ups for the voice using fragrant local oranges to guide our exercises, then taught sections of some of the "Village" compositions.  After that, the participants shared some of their favorite songs with me.  There were also many hearty uluations!

Sharing songs

Breath and oranges in motion

Paula and translator Fatima Ouaryachi enjoy a moment

The two young women directly in front of me were committed to the project from the first day - 
Omayma Sdiri and Aziza Matiich

I started my search for props.  A trip was arranged to begin the hunt.  Mohammed Hamdouni was provided as an assistant to help me find objects in the big nearby city of Fez. 

 Paula and Mohammed in the flea market outside the Fez medina

Tuned ceramic bowls are an important part of "A Village Of One".  I like that some of the instruments in the piece are closely associated with domestic life and reimagined as percussion.  Off we went to the clay artisans.  I had my drumsticks and pitch pipe.  It was a great adventure, with the gentlemen of the shop bringing out lots of stock from the back room ready for rhythm.

I found three elegant and sonorous pieces that were used in every performance.  Playing these bowls gave me such a strong sense of place and was visually inspiring.  Plus they sounded great!

I also had to find some terracotta bowls to use in the "Village" song "The World Inside".  These bowls are passed down the line of the chorus members and add a percussive element.  I wanted to find some small Moroccan tagine dishes.  I was taken to an amazing potter, Mohammed Hayani Mounkade.  His shop is in the Souk El Henna, in a very atmospheric part of Fez.  

Mr. Mounkade not only sold me the tagines but also sat with me for a long time and told me his life story, explaining his relationship to clay.  It really deepened my understanding of the earthy significance of using these vessels.  Plus, I learned about lineage in Moroccan family artisanal traditions, and the respect for craft when making items for home use.  Oral history is an important part of my process, and this was a poignant one.

With Mohammed Hayani Mounkade, pottery artist

The lineage of Moroccan clay

Back in Sefrou it was time to meet with my first choice musician.  I had heard a man at the couscous jam who played both drums and guitar, and moved easily between the various Moroccan musical styles including some Andalusian music, much in the style of the Gypsy Kings.  After a short rehearsal I knew I had found my musical heart with Ismail Maarouf.  We worked our way through all of the songs and sang well together, too! 

Ismail Maarouf:  the word is soul  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

It is natural in this sort of residency that material will shift and change.  I wanted to find a new way for us to approach the song for the "Village" finale, "Like Jasmine".  I sang it in its existing form for Ismail and then, with a sudden smile, he fit the song over a traditional Amazigh beat.  Here is the new version (in Darija) and the original (in English).

Paula and Ismail sing the Moroccan version of "Like Jasmine/Bhal Ourak Al Yasmine" in rehearsal

"Like Jasmine" sung by the Brooklyn "A Village Of One" choir
(Vanessa Roe, Yodit Stevens Smith, Monique Bomba, Laurie Matthews, Paula Jeanine Bennett)

Over the next few days I started assembling the choir.  I had already chosen three young women from the singing parties and wanted at least two more.  My translator and stage manager Fatima Ouaryachi made some calls to help the search. 

Fatima Zohra Boutaibi (far rt.) and Aziza Matiich (with tan vest) at a singing rehearsal

My guest house, Dar Attamani, agreed to let me use several rooms for rehearsals.  It was helpful that the "Village" cast would come to me, as there was much to prepare.  New singers started coming to the rehearsals and our numbers grew.

Bathed in light at the first vocal rehearsal in my room at Dar Attamani.
   l. to r.:  Aziza, Jamaa (nicknamed "Friday"), Fatima Zohra B., me, Omayma

I heard that there was a young woman in town who also had a strong acting background.  We met  and I knew I'd found a key member of the cast.  Fatima Zohra Charifi brought passion and tenderness to her work in every performance.  Also added Sara Moussami who had strong movement skills and would be the "line captain" in the stage blocking.  The unity of the chorus started to form.

The choir shows some attitude
Splendid Fatima Zohra Charifi
We started working on the piece that used the clay tagines, "The World Inside".  Passing the plates became an important part of rehearsal, and through that process I added some sections to the song. 

At that point, we were joined by new member Amina Yabis, the founder of the Sefrou Women's Silk Button Cooperative.  She was a mentor for several of the young women in the chorus and having her join us took things to another level. (That's Amina in the blue headscarf.) 

When I had originally created "A Village Of One" in Java, Indonesia the piece had a narrator.  In Morocco, I wanted a traditional storyteller (hakawati) to start the performance.  There has been a new movement in Marrakech and Fez to rediscover the ancient art of Moroccan storytelling.  I was introduced to Brahim Daldali, born and raised in Sefrou, who is an integral part of this trend.  He agreed to join the ensemble and began to write a story in folktale style just for "Village".  We had several dynamic sessions discussing viewpoint and meaning.  Explaining the themes of my work to him helped me stay focused while reaching across our cultures.

At the next rehearsal, Brahim read his tale to the ensemble.  

The Hakawati premieres his tale in the sitting room

Brahim also assisted me locally.  As he grew up in Sefrou, he knew where to find practically anything.  He also knew almost everybody, and walking through the ancient honeycomb-like streets with him was lots of fun.  We slogged through the muddy markets, with music coming from everywhere and hawkers who'd come from the countryside shouting as we passed. 

Making new friends in Sefrou

The weather turned cold, damp and raw.  As I was spending a lot of time outdoors and in unheated rooms, I started piling on the layers of clothes.  Like everyone else in the medina,  I consumed many bowls of harira soup prepared in a large vat from a stall.  I bought a small plastic bucket with a lid and stood in line for my portion.  By 7 p.m. the serving ladle scraped the bottom of the cauldron.  I had to make sure I didn't get there too late because it was the only food in town!  I also couldn't walk alone in the medina at night, through the dark winding lanes.  Evenings were the time for planning my next steps.

I had to make two big set props:  the house and the gate.  Bamboo, chicken wire and garden hose would feature prominently in their construction, since they were easily available.  I was told we'd have to go to the riverbank to find the bamboo store.  The store consisted of bundles of bamboo tied to trees.  You would call up the storekeeper and he'd arrive, ring up your purchase and tie up your bundle.

The bamboo superstore
Huddling for warmth after shopping
Central to the staging in "A Village Of One" is a representation of a house.  I had gone through a lot of ideas for how to make this in the Moroccan production.  As Jess and I worked on the poster for the show, it became clear to me.  I would create a two-dimensional house that could be positioned on the back wall of the performance venue.  The image on the poster is very much like a Saharan desert house, and that design informed the making of the prop.  I built texture over the wire with newspaper treated with a strong coffee solution, and then used a fixative of white glue and water.  The bamboo bracing on the back allowed us to fold the piece in half for transport.

The performance poster with house design

The completed house with light shining through
The house installed at the first performance venue
As I worked on the house, I realized certain qualities of it were very much like my Brooklyn assemblage art pieces.  Sometimes the elements we gravitate towards aesthetically are guided by the subconscious!  

Pydhonie 1 (2 1/2" x 5 1/2" x 1")

Then the work on the second set piece began.  A defining aspect of Moroccan cities is the profusion of gates and arched passageways.  I've always been inspired by this architecture and wanted to refer to it.  Brahim and I built a gate-like structure that I named the "Bab al-Baraka".  Baraka means blessing, and also represented Barack Obama for this proud American.

We shaped the hose-laced wire construction and set the arch in water bottles filled with cement for stability.

Bab Al-Baraka under construction

An interactive touch was added to the Bab Al-Baraka.  I envisioned the audience tying wish ribbons on the gate before entering the performing space.  As the piece is about village life, I wanted the ribbons to be the colors of the forest.  I had been collecting old robes from the flea market in shades of green and gold.  They were cut into strips and placed in adjoining baskets.

Tying the first wish ribbon
The Bab is ready! (l. to rt. Brahim, Abdelhaq & Paula)

In the meantime, rehearsals continued with the choir and Ismail.  I brought another musician into the ensemble, oud player Youness El Issmaeli.  Youness had been in contact with me through Culture Vultures and contributed a vital sound to "Village".  I had added sections of action on stage that required underscoring, and the voice of the oud brought a special tenderness to those scenes.

Youness and Ismail playing through the songs  (photo:  Otman Elyoubi)

There was yet another person needed for the ensemble in a key role.  An essential aspect to "Village" is the presence of a monster.  I had done some research about the lore of monsters in Morocco.  It had been suggested to me to incorporate a distinctly regional monster in "Village" called a Boujloud.  The Boujloud is a sheep monster who appears after Eid al-Adha, roaming and looking for fresh meat.  
I decided that this character would be the perfect addition to the Moroccan production.

Then the challenge of finding the right person to play the character began.  A tall, studious man named Khalil Lazar was suggested to me.  We met and he was full of questions about his possible participation.  It took him awhile to decide to join us, and I was ecstatic when he did.  
I was told that he was a great mover, and dynamic on stage.  We set a time to work together on  character and staging.  After a few minutes of physical improvisation with him I knew I had met my monster.

Paula and Khalil at first rehearsal
Initial encounter with Khalil as the Boujloud
I made a hat for Khalil so that he could start working deeper on his character.  I worked with the same materials I'd been using to make the Bab al-Baraka:  wire and fabric.  Two sheepskin were acquired and attached together for the other part of the costume.   The transformation was impressive.

The horned hat
The Boujloud in full regalia

At that point it was time to return to my own process.  I wanted to do another oral history, this time with a woman who could deepen my understanding of Sefrou life.  Fatima Hanin was the cook who had prepared the scrumptious couscous for the musicians' jam.  She agreed to the interview if I would hire her to give me a cooking lesson.  The Dar Attamani proprietor offered us their kitchen.  The transaction would be followed by a tasty lunch.
Layers of vegetables.....and history

It went like this:
P:  "So, Fatima, are you from Sefrou"
F:  "I am from a little village not far from here......cut up this onion"
P:  "And when were you married"
F:  "I was married at 16 and had 3 children by the time I was we roll the fish meatballs"

Sardine meatballs ready for the tagine

As lunch cooked, I asked a question that was vital to "Village" themes.  "Fatima, have you ever known a woman who chose a life alone?"  What followed will stay with me forever.  She began to tell me the story of a women who left her family because of abuse and got her own house.  Excoriated by a strictly-regimented community, this woman held her ground.  The friend told Fatima, "No one knows what's in another's heart."  There were tears in the kitchen that day.

Meanwhile, work continued with the choir.  We'd been working on the song "The World Inside" and two sections were added that allowed the participants to express themselves more deeply.  The lyric is about the outer and inner experiences of women.  I asked the choir members to write individual speeches about their struggles in the world that would be done as short monologues.  After each speech, the choir would sing, "How many times, how many times" in Darija.

The choir performs "The World Inside"  (photo:  Otman Elyoubi)

Here are two examples of the speeches.  (The full text is included at the end of the blog).

“How many times did I want to go to school and learn but my parents told me, "You come from the countryside:  go do housework."  How many times did I tell them I didn’t want to get married but they insisted I marry?  I didn’t want to get married; I wanted to learn. I would wake up very early to bring wood from the forest to make the fire then clean wheat and prepare bread for the husband and the children. Clean the stable and ...the cows. How many times did I bring water from the far away well? How many times did I shake the milk for butter… How many times... how many times...”
(Aziza Matiich)

“How many times do I have to change my route when I walk just because the other route is full of cafes, full of men who have too much free time.  Men who keep their eyes on the women passing by, saying this woman is slim, this one is fat… This one is married, this one is divorced... It’s too much... We are tired ... we change our ways when we walk to avoid the cafes but shouldn’t they change the way they sit in those cafes?  How many times… many times”
(Sara Moussami)

The other new section was at the end, during the passing of the plates.  While the tagines moved down the line, the choir started quietly intoning a list of names.  Each member said the names of the women in their family.  The effect was quite moving.

The section needed a more resonant rhythm.  I bought a big red bucket at the souk and
played it on my lap with a mallet.  This sort of bucket is usually used in a hammam, the bathhouse in which Moroccan folks get warm and clean and catch up on neighborhood news.  Many women in the Sefrou medina live without bathing facilities or central heating, and the hammam is essential to maintaining a healthy life. 

Paula playing the hammam bucket on stage   (photo:  Otman Elyoubi)
I went there too.  Some of the hammams were quite ancient:  being sluiced with water, soaped and scrubbed while sitting with a large gathering of women in deshabille was a profound bonding experience.  I was glad to honor the tradition of the hammam by repurposing the bucket.

Finally, the first performance drew near.  It was to be at the Sefrou Town Hall, also known as the Baladiya, in a large ornate room filled with light.  I began to plan how it could be transformed into our performing space.

The Town Hall space, complete with a formidable portrait of the King

I built a stage set model in Brooklyn and brought it with me.  It helped with the visualization for this challenging venue.

The stage model
The Hakawati figure, added in Sefrou

The day of the performance arrived and the sun was shining.  This was a great relief as it had been overcast and rainy for more than a week.  The set pieces were moved from my office to the Town Hall by handcart.  We went through some tumbled-down sections of the town on our way to the venue.  I was wearing my gold shoes as I stepped on the crumbling stones.  It felt like a hallucination.

The handcart

The Bab al-Baraka installed at the entrance to the venue

A very short video of the audience tying wish ribbons and going into the performance space

The "Village" set in the Sefrou Town Hall

The audience is ready

It was time to begin.  Brahim, our Hakawati (storyteller) started things off with a tale.  He began:  "Today I am here to tell you a story.  It's not a story about the Sultan Haroun Rachid or Ali Baba and the Thieves or Samson and Delilah.  My story of today is about modern people, living in a world of their own making, behind closed doors...."

"I Am Clay" sung by the ensemble

Ismail and Youness

The Boujloud monster came bursting through the Bab al-Baraka shouting, "Be careful what you wish for!"  and then made his way over to me
A battle of epic proportions

After the Boujloud fights me, he runs off and knocks down a woman holding a baby.  It is the "moment of truth" section of "Village".  I have to decide whether to help, or pretend I don't see.

Fatima Zohra Charifi knocked to the ground

I knew that the call to prayer would happen sometime during our performance. The tradition is that all activity stops during the call.  I was familiar with this from when it occurred during rehearsals. 
Amazingly, it started right when I rose with the baby in my arms.  I planted my feet and stood in stillness for what seemed like an eternity.  I sensed the audience breathing with me.  It was an electrifying moment, and I felt myself fill with light.

Full stop on stage

Soon, we were in motion again and performed the finale, "Like Jasmine", "Bhal Ourak Al Yasmine" in Darija.  Standing in the line together across the front, the group was united and proud.

The next day we had a performance at the El Mnouni Theater in Meknes, a nearby royal city.  It had been arranged by the American Language Center (ALC).  We arrived in the afternoon and were surprised to find a green domed building that looked like an upturned bowl.

Futuristic outside........
......classic inside!

The sound and lights at this theater were superb.  Also, both the Hakawati and Boujloud would be able to work wireless.  It was an astonishing contrast from the day before when we had performed in a primitive space.  I was excited to experience this variation with the ensemble.

"I Am Clay/Ana Tin"  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

The chorus sings "The World Inside"  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)


Tagines  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)
Confrontation scene - Fatima Zohra and Ismail  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

Playing the tuned bowls

The Boujloud enters  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

Begone, you beast!  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

The moment of truth   (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

One small step........  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

.....I can take one small step......  (photo: Otman Elyoubi) unity!  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

Finale, "Like Jasmine",  El Mnouni Theater, Meknes   (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

Sharing our strength and making memories on stage  (photo: Otman Elyoubi)

The large ensemble had one more performance, this time in the ancient city of Fez.  We were invited by the ALC to present "Village" at the Arabic Language Institute.  Once again we were in a different sort of venue, this time in a traditional garden of a riad, an old house.  We performed in the night air.  There was a fountain in the middle of the courtyard, and lots of orange trees.  What a mood!  The biggest challenge was that the audience was packed into this small space, and we had very little room to perform.

Doorway into the ALIF riad
Finale, "Like Jasmine", ALIF Riad, Fez
But being close together had its benefits.  When Fatima fell with the baby she landed right at my feet.  Also, during "The World Inside" the women were amidst the audience which was exciting.  Many people who felt close to the production had made the trip to Fez to be with us that night.
The "Village" was alive! 

After these three performances, a concert version of "Village" was presented through ALC in Casablanca and Mohammedia.  I had a chance to return to the creative source of the Moroccan production and work closely with musician Ismail Maarouf again.  Fatima Ouaryachi, who had been at my side since the singing parties, was also with us as vocalist and translator.

Before returning to Brooklyn I had another week in Morocco.  I had been invited to Tetouan, a city in the north on the Mediterranean.  It had been the capital of the Spanish protectorate until 1956.   So much was different - the look, the sound, the taste.

The low arches of Tetouan

Ogling the Spanish-style pastry with Wong Shiek Lie

The local ALC had a plan for me to do several initiatives.  I hosted a "Friendship Table",  a free-ranging discussion of many topics,  and a series of workshops through an ALC program in a girls'  school.  I would set two "Village" songs, "I Am Clay" and "One Small Step" and present a brief showing at the end of the residency.  I had 42 enthusiastic girls who gave their all and did a terrific job.  Our presentation was followed by a grand party of dancing and song.
Preparing for performance

In the local folk costume
At the Khadija Oum Al Moueminine School, Tetouan
I was also invited to participate in a drum jam sponsored by Green Olive Arts.  It was a magical night of music and fellowship.  We were in another riad courtyard, replete with trees, carved wood, and terrific acoustics.  I had the pleasure of meeting several other women drummers as well as some fine gentlemen musicians.

At the Green Olive drum jam with Madiha Sebbani (ctr.) & Oum Keltoum Marsly (rt.)

Creatively renewed and spiritually saturated, I finally reached my last day.  I was taken to a mountain rise on the outskirts of Tetouan. 

I am so glad that "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda"  was embraced in Morocco.  I believe in the core of my being that art can transform and unite.  That is my most fervent song.


Paula Jeanine Bennett's website

"A Village Of One" Java

"A Village Of One" Brooklyn

                     RADIO MAROC interview with Paula Jeanine Bennett, February 26, 2015

THE MONSTER REFLECTS:  A short interview with Khalil Lazar 
1.  Describe your artistic journey in "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda". 
My journey in "A Village Of One" was full or surprises.  We had to perform in different cities and be flexible enough to remove and/or add scenes to the performances at the last moment.  I had the chance to check the validity of my acting skills by implementing them in front of a real audience.  I can't deny the pride I had for myself and the people around me each time I finished the performance.  People came to me and congratulated me about the great work I did and how much they liked the character I played.
2.  What were your biggest challenges?
The challenge I had was to have enough self-confidence to play in front of an audience that knew me before but not as a performer.  I also had the challenge of getting the approval and satisfaction of the audience and Paula as well, trying to find the fine line in the middle of these two things.  Another challenge was to be willing and self-confident, perform better and not be confused or stressed.
3.  What was your favorite moment in "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda"?
My favorite moment was my entrance, when I would jump on the stage.  It is the turning point in the performance, the coming of the monster, which nobody was expecting.  People's faces changed and got more focused.
4.  Please describe your experience in "A Village Of One/Village Dial Waheda" in one word.
My experience described in one word:  peerless.

Aziza Mattich:
“How many times I wanted to go to school and learn but my parents told me, "You come from the countryside:  go do housework."  How many times did I tell them I didn’t want to get married but they insisted I marry?  I didn’t want to get married; I wanted to learn. I would wake up very early to bring wood from the forest to make the fire then clean wheat and prepare bread for the husband and the children. Clean the stable and ...the cows. How many times did I bring water from the far away well? How many times did I shake the milk for butter… How many times... how many times...”
Omaima Sdiri:
“How many times do I have to go the hospital and talk to a nurse who sends me to another hospital? Why? Because I’m poor, one throws you to the other. Why can’t I find an ear to hear me? How many times will I go to see a doctor who is not there? Why? Because I’m poor. How many times… how many times...”
Sara Moussami:
“How many times do I have to change my route when I walk just because the other route is full of cafes, full of men who have too much free time.  Men who keep their eyes on the women passing by, saying this woman is slim, this one is fat… This one is married, this one is divorced... It’s too much... We are tired ... we change our ways when we walk to avoid the cafes but shouldn’t they change the way they sit in those cafes?  How many times… many times” 
Amina Yabis:"How many times should I cook and make the dough?  Do the laundry, clean the house and mind the kids?  How many times?  How many times will I wake up in the morning to clean and cook?  And in the afternoon I take my plate and start making thread buttons.  Always working from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.  How many times should I do this……how many times…."
Jamaa "Friday" Elabade: 
“How many times will my husband beat me and no one cares? Some tell me to be silent, stay by your man’s side and gather your children around you! How many times should I be patient? How many times… how many times?”
Fatima Zohra Charifi:
“How many times!!!  We are so tired!  I am a woman - YES - and I want to study and learn. I want to live my life. My parents should send me to school and not just prepare me to get married because I am a woman. I am taught how to cook and how to put on make up so that I will find a husband and get married… Just because I am a woman... just because we are in a patriarchal society.... the man is everything.... why... why...  I just want to study and learn... I want a place in this society... I want my opinion to be heard... I want to be an architect, a teacher... not married with children... then HE can be married to an important person, why not?  I’m tired...From closing my eyes to the truth.. I’m tired.. I’m tired... How many times… how many times...”

The following recipe is from my cooking lesson during the oral history session with Ms. Hanin.  Ingredient amounts are relative to the number of people to be served and not in exact measurements.  As with most lifelong cooks, the recipe was taught to me as "a bit of this, a bit of that."  But I assure you it is delicious!

Cooking time:  approx. 1 1/2 hours  

Vegetables for layering:  onion, potatoes, carrots, green peas, tomatoes, 2 whole hot peppers, 
     lemon (with skin, seeds removed)
Sauce:  ground garlic, coriander leaf, cumin, paprika, black pepper, ginger, harissa hot
     sauce, olive oil
Sardine meatballs:  fresh sardines (cleaned & minced in a food processor, bones & skin removed),   
     onion, cumin, paprika, black pepper, salt

Cut the onion, carrot and potatoes in rounds.  Boil the carrot, potatoes and peas 15 minutes, and then marinate them in some of the sauce for several hours.  Coat the bottom of the tagine with a little olive oil. 
Stack layers of vegetables in the bottom of the tagine starting with the onion.  Top the layers with thick slices of tomatoes, and then cover with more sauce.  Keep a little sauce in reserve for the last step.  Lay the 2 hot peppers over the stack and put the lid on the tagine.  Cook at medium high heat for 30 minutes, then turn to medium heat.  Add slices of lemon on top of the vegetables.
While the tagine cooks, roll the fish meatballs.  They should be on the smallish size, about the size of large grapes.  Put them aside.
At 50 minutes, take the top off the tagine.  Wait 10 minutes, and then place the fish meatballs on the top of the vegetable stack.  Sprinkle with salt.  Turn up the heat a bit.  When the liquid starts to boil, turn the heat to low.  Replace the lid and prop it up slightly with a spoon.
Cook 20 minutes more, then spoon the reserve sauce over the fish balls. 

Get your fork ready!
Khadija Dannoun
Richard Bennett
Jess Stephens, Fatima Ouaryachi, Brahim Daldali, Mohammed Hamdouni
& Uncle Ahmed of Culture Vultures
The owner and staff of Dar Attamani
Otman Elyoubi
Steeve Nicks & Wong Shiek Lie, ALC Tetouan
Sonia Cooke, ALC Casablanca
Nadia Beqqada, ALC Meknes
ALC Mohammedia
The Sefrou Women's Center
Fatima Hanin
Mohammed Hayani Mounkade
Khalil Lazar
Amina Yabis, Omayma Sdiri, Aziza Matiich, Jamaa "Friday" Elabade, Fatima Zohra Boutaibi, Sara Moussami and Fatima Zohra Charifi
Abdellah Fillali, El Mouminine, Farida Samadi & students of the
   Khadija Oum Al Moueminie School, Tetouan
Chaimae Salhi
Jeff McRobbie, Green Olive Arts
Madiha Sebbani & Oum Keltoum Marsly
George Bajalia
Dr. James Miller, MACECE
the good people of Morocco

Very special thanks to David Amster, director, ALC Fez

Imbedding myself in Sefrou and creating the Moroccan version of "A Village Of One" was one of the most potent artistic experiences of my life.  Working closely with the community while being surrounded by living history helped me get to the root of why I am committed to cultural arts activism.

Like the many petals of Jasmine
We join at the core
Draw strength from the center
Unite at the source
 "Like Jasmine" from "A Village Of One"