International Class, New York 2013-14

International Class is organized by East Side Institute which is located in New York and connected with communities around the world. Spanning through a year, it brings together people from a diversity of nationalities, ages and backgrounds. The group is learning Social Therapeutics while building the group. Each and all are discovering and creating Social Therapeutics in their local contexts: schools, therapy groups, corporate environments, universities around the world. We come back to New York to live Social Therapeutics and the communities that inspired and build them: political, therapeutic, educational, performance activities and communities.

I came to international class poor. It was made possible to me through a scholarship. I started becoming interested in it while in Greece, a graduate psychologist and dramatherapist working in a chicken shop, not knowing how to response to the trauma of poverty and how to build communities. When I applied I was working in London as a play worker and saving as much as I could to travel. I wanted to see, to understand the world through smell and colors, friendships, small details and to heal from the abstraction and the alienation I was often experiencing as a therapist.

When I was travelling to New York, I used to carry with me veg and tuna tins from UK because the food was cheaper there. Too ashamed about that, I used to hide them under the bed in the room I was hosted. The East Side Institute connects the students of the class with residents of New York/ builders of this community. The students are hosted, making friends and exchanging culture with them. My host then is one of the main co-creators of this work now.

In New York we met with a group of people and explored together how we can build us. Conversations about the world, moments of improvisation and play. We were introduced to: All Stars, Castillo Theatre, the Independents, Performance of a Lifetime- the sister organizations of East Side Institute building together this developmental community. Buildings, communities and histories: activities created collectively grassroots and funded independently through community crowdfunding.

One evening we were invited to present collectively to the bigger community how young people live in our countries and how we can be supportive to them. The day before my throat closed, I could not talk, trying in every way to avoid the session. We prepared our presentation as a group and then we performed it as a group. I remember watching people’s eyes, our audience that was creating us with the way they were listening to us. Why I was not insecure? How come together we were strong? And these people their histories of building communities over the years where they were at? That session transformed me and us. I found a place to belong and to emerge. And then fiercely I wanted to give it to others.

This community and the activity of giving it to others inspired me and supported me to build Play is Hope.

For my International Class 2013-2014

The room is empty

Like a summerhouse in winter

You can still hear people’s voices even if they grew up and out

and left the house- how can we ever leave us?

Now count with me…

and I will mop the floor

there are still toys, bagels

fragments of languages

that became a flamenco dance

now count with us..

een, два, três, τέσσερα, ৫ পাঁচ, six, seven, eight…

tell me a story about a group

words and worlds that came together

voices of people that we have never met

and became us

complete us.

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