I’ve been wanting to connect with other art and theatremakers in my time here in Lisbon and staying indoors, one does not. So I wandered, and wandering can lead you exactly where you want to be.
On my second day here, on my way down from Hangar in Graça, I wandered into an open gate. A lady in a firm voice called out to me. “Can I help you?” It should’ve been: get out trespasser. I sheepishly explained that I was a theatremaker from Singapore doing a residency up the hill and I couldn’t but walk into a space that had “creativity” in its named, and furthermore, it was the first time I saw the gate open. Susy, whom I eventually got to know, proceeded then to show me around the entire Mouraria Creative Hub, site dedicated to incubating Lisbon’s next generation of creative entrepreneurs. It was such a generous gesture considering it was after office hours. The next day I returned on my way up the hill. I ended up spending an hour with her and her colleague talking my research on violence and their perspectives as Portuguese women in a largely patriarchal society. It was a very genuine connection.
Yesterday, after watching a bouffant show at Teatro do Bairro, I walked to the São Carlos opera house off Baxia Chiado . It was closed so I continued and ended up at the basement entrance of the São Luiz Teatro Municipal down the street. A festival was going on and I had seened posters of it. I wandered in, asked an usher where the main entrance was, and was pointed upstairs. I climbed, and as I arrived on the first floor, I knew instantly I was not meant to be in the foyer area (a performance must’ve been going on). A lady turned around and asked in firm and polite English, “Can I help you?” Sheepishly, I introduced myself, I was a theatremaker from Singapore blah blah, and that I was hoping to buy tickets but I needed help to figure out which shows I could watch and how to buy tickets but nothing was in English. I soon realised that, Monica, as I eventually got to know, was a producer and I ended up getting a contact for the artistic director of the teatro. Not only that, Monica gave me a comp to that evening’s performance of João Fiadeiro, a famed Portuguese choreographer, known for his “Real Time Composition” method.
After the show, I lingered a bit, gathered the courage and wandered over to João and struck up a conversation. I’m a Singapore theatremaker blah blah. After about 5 minutes of him pretty much him giving his full attention to me, a stranger from Singapore (like what?!), I dared up the nerve to ask, “Would you be conducting any workshops anytime soon? I’d love to take part” “Yes, this Wednesday, I have one happening, there will be a performance at the end of it, come.”
I admit that there are moments where I fight with myself for taking such a retreat in Lisbon, and question whether it really makes good career sense to disappear for two months. But yesterday reminded me that wandering can lead you to new roads and new opportunities. And that being sincere and humble is the best way to make these connections.