MY 1001 NIGHTS PT 1

Tom with an audience looking incongruent with orange hair and guitar in a medina in Morocco. Man wearing a djellaba looking on with curiousity

Tom, with an audience, looking incongruent with orange hair and guitar in a medina in Morocco; man wearing a djellaba looking on with curiousity.

The Thursday before LUMINATO I was down at the Distillery District, wandering and feeling creatively fried from 2 days doing the DOORS OPEN Festival and 2 days of doing the CONTACT Festival, too tired to make a decision as to what to do next. So I just sat down.

And then a scene unfolded in the square in front of me. A guy was walking around in a djellaba – a Moroccan coat with a hood that slides over one’s head making the wearer look like a wizard. Djellabas are the standard apparel staple in places like Fez and Marrakesh, but in Toronto at the Distillery it was an incongruent visual. To add to the sight, his djellaba was slightly open revealing absurd but cute red boxers. He was blocking his way around the courtyard as though he was on a stage. On benches, steps, stairs, and other haphazard points around the periphery of the square were sitting, just like me, groupings of arty dressed ensembles of men and women. One man, with sleekly designed glasses and a creative mop of thick black hair, had a beautiful pair of leather slippers on, curled up at the ends like the shoes of Aladdin, the type of shoes that are just begging to be slipped off and placed on a magic carpet. It was as though there was a djinni diffused from its bottle and hovering over them, moving each person like a chess piece to another grouping to substitute someone he had just displaced. I became enchanted by this strange choreography and I continued to be its quiet audience.

When one travels a lot you begin to play this game, while in transit, guessing where people are from not just by their facial features but their gait, body language and hand gestures. All these people in front of me seemed locked into some shared secret conspiracy but I could tell they had come from very different places. Eventually they all filed into some little door and disappeared.

While this was all going on I was musing to myself that because of what I threw on as I made a mad dash out the door that day– harem pants, arabesque embroidered tube top, pashmina and flip flops, – and because of the way I had situated myself on some steps, I looked less like the audience and more like the cast to any outsider looking in upon the scene.

Flash forward to Thursday, June 9. I am taking my seat at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre for the performance of Tim Supple’s production of 1001 Nights. I have just met the director Tim and felt the need to make a confession that I didn’t make it to his production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at Luminato 2008 which, because of my area of interest – intercultural mashups in 21st art – seems like an act of hypocrisy and sacrilege. I read up that Tim collected a cast of talent from around the Maghreb, Middle East and Europe. As I sit and look to my right I see a creative mop of black hair, well designed glasses and pair of footwear with the leather curlicued at the toes. Then my eye follows the line of musicians in the orchestra up to the stage. From stage right and stage left tumble all the people I saw file into the tiny little door sandwiched between stores and galleries at the Distillery. It was like the djinni had erased my entire week and at the exact same time seven days later he shape shifted me into a seat in front of the true stage. After the feeling of déjà vu had lifted I had a laugh at the djinni most likely having a snicker because the joke was now on me.