Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday Feature: Jessica Ruano on 9 fragments (Fringe - Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto)

Sappho's love affairs on Twitter
by Jessica Ruano

Jessica Ruano was ubiquitous in Ottawa, Canada as promoter and reviewer for the local arts community. Having recently moved to London, United Kingdom, she is pursuing a career in theatre as a director, producer, and freelance writer.

From a busy café in London, England, I’m flirting with Sappho’s followers on Twitter. 

“I wanted to tell you everything, but I couldn't give away too much. There were others watching. I knew you would be the one...” I say with characteristic static certainty, in 140 characters or fewer. 

The recipient of my message replies: “Freedom is now yours, fear not the stares of those we fought. Take to that stage, woman of the Greek night, and tell all.”

For social media purposes, I embody the role of Sappho with gusto – and I’m not even playing her onstage.

In fact, I’m the director and producer of ‘Sappho …in 9 fragments’, a remarkable play by Jane Montgomery Griffiths about 600 BC’s Lesbian poet. In this London production that tours Canada this summer, actor Victoria Grove plays the roles of both Sappho and her modern-day lover Atthis. 

Once you’ve taken the time to become acquainted with Sappho, her seduction is quick and quick-witted

Planning for our upcoming travel adventure, Sappho inhabits many of my waking hours. I’ve already booked venues in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, and I’m looking into taking her out west, as well. I’d say she deserves a working holiday, having been buried beneath folds of papyrus all these centuries.

Once you’ve taken the time to become acquainted with Sappho, her seduction is quick and quick-witted: with only fragments of her poetry remaining, she keeps you guessing, yearning to know what lies between the lines. 

Single flirtatious phrases like “as long as you want” line her books of poetry. She begins one poem “He seems to me as happy as the gods, this man” when, in fact, the sensuous selection is about her love for a woman. 

I use these lines in my Twitter updates, hoping to elicit an emotional reaction from my followers. Maybe they’ll use one of these lines to seduce a lover, or to inspire poetry of their own. 

I’m pro-active when it comes to marketing. When I created Sappho’s Twitter account, I started following everyone I could find: every theatre artist and company, every LGBTQ organization, every proud poet and writer, every Ancient Greece fanatic. 

The result? Suspension. Like Sappho from Lesbos, I was temporarily exiled from Twitter for unknown reasons; my poetry censored, my online love affairs on hiatus…

(To be honest, the system probably thought I was a spam-bot because I was following people so efficiently and persistently. But it sounds much more romantic to imagine a more mysterious situation.)

Thankfully, my Sapphic counterpart has since returned to the Twittersphere, keen to reconnect with the world beyond her fragmented tomb. 

“I never expected to graze my fingers on the sky” I type, wistfully, and then retweet some articles about countries now allowing same-sex couples to get married. 

It’s about time, eh? For the past couple of millennia, Sappho’s been waiting to pop the question to Atthis, and now she’ll finally have her chance under the Eiffel Tower.

“Poor Atthis. You were like a child. So graceless, so naïve. I loved you once.” #Sappho

Still, Sappho refuses to limit herself – she has always been the polyamorous type, love affairs sprouting daily; with every new follower, a new opportunity to fall romantically, intellectually, and sublimely in love.

‘Sappho …in 9 fragments’ tours Canada this summer. For full dates and updates, please visit our website and follow us on Twitter @sappho9fragment. 

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