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2000 Words

A performance on language, alterity and mis/communication – and an open letter to the local community of Koutroulou Magoula

Direction and dramaturgy: Efthimis Theou

Text: Jason Goodman, Efthimis Theou

Performed by Jason Goodman

With the support of Brown University, the Municipality of Domokos, the local council of N. Monastiri, and the help of the Women’s Association of Vardalis

Every summer, several students from various universities travel to Greece to participate in the Archaeology and Archaeological Ethnography Project at Koutroulou Magoula. Over the course of a month-long season, the students excavate at the trenches, process the finds in the laboratory, and attempt to settle into the everyday life of the villages of Neo Monastiri and Vardalis. Their communication with the locals –both at work and at the tavernas, shops and bars– is naturally limited by the language barrier and done primarily in English, which is fluently spoken by most of the young people in the villages and to a far lesser degree by the rest. Every effort displayed by the students to use the limited Greek words they have picked up during their stay (a few typical greetings and, naturally, the vocabulary for ordering food and drink) is welcomed with joy and pride by those in the villages, as a sign of goodwill and friendship.

Within this environment, we created and presented a piece that meddles with these well-established and incomplete means of communication. Jason Goodman, a Brown University student and performer that participated in the 2022 excavation season, returned to Koutroulou Magoula in 2023 to attempt an ‘impossible’ task: to deliver a thirty-minute talk in Greek, with very little prior knowledge of the language, approaching the speech phonetically. This unconventional lecture conveyed archaeological information about Koutroulou Magoula, its people, and fragments of their identity left behind, while simultaneously engaged in playful scenic experimentation with the limits and possibilities of the spoken word, embracing and celebrating the moments of verbal struggle, failure and success. Most importantly, though, it was a clear artistic gesture of kinship, addressed directly to the members of the local community and driven by a deep need for communication.

The piece, due to the bad weather, was presented indoors, at the Neo Monastiri town hall, for an audience of 150 people –  followed by a feast with a traditional local dish, music and dance.