Letters to Odesa

Theatre workshop "Local-or-Foreigner" in December 2018

What would you write to your native city as if it were an animated creature? This question was raised during the “Local-or-Foreigner” theatre workshop, which was held in early December in Odesa, a city in the southern part of Ukraine on the Black Sea.
Theatre workshop "Local-or-Foreigner" in December 2018
© forumZFD/Stefania Amamdjian

18 participants from Odesa got together to explore their relationship with their city, to explore how they feel about their favourite parts of it, and the parts that arouse distrust and put them on edge. They explored those roles and manifestations in the urban space that either help or hinder feelings of safety and cosiness. The project was conducted by Natalia Vaynilovich from the NGO “Inclusive Theater Association ART-Playback” in close partnership with the forumZFD Ukraine.

Day-to-day stories of real people

Day-to-day stories of the people who were born in or moved to Odesa for various reasons became the backbone of the workshop. These people interact with the city on a daily basis, and their personal stories relate to topics relevant to Odesa.


“In our work we used a combination of different techniques - playback and forum theater, as well as elements of documentary theatre. These theatrical forms combine figurativeness, context specificity and some burning social issues. All of these forms work with people’s personal stories”.


Letter to the city

The participants wrote letters addressed to their city. This practice becаme a core idea in the final performance of the workshop.

Several fragments of the letters: “You are not only roads and lanterns, you are not only the sea and estuaries, you are something more, you are a living organism in which there is a million and one people, you are like a coast with grains of sand in which the grains of sand are people".

© forumZFD/Stefania Amamdjian

"Only once I have lived here for many years, I was able to get to know you deeper and to fall in love. Now it's all mine. You are my city, and there is no such city anywhere else, and there is no more like You. There are bigger ones, maybe there are more prominent or more significant cities. But there is no more dearer to my heart."

© forumZFD/Stefania Amamdjian

“And here I’m listening to the people who have been living in Odesa for only a few years. Someone says that in the city of their childhood it was impossible to breathe, because the air was saturated with soot all the time. Someone had eternal snows in their hometown. Someone is crying because he left his city: the war came there... And I’ve realised that all this time my city was taking care of me. And I feel ashamed because of this..."

Interactive performance “Let’s talk about Odesa?”

The three-day workshop resulted in an interactive performance, designed in a way that the audience had an opportunity to become active participants and to share their own stories. The performance consisted of fragments of actors’ and spectators’ personal stories, united by a common theme and a gradual transition from the Personal to the Systemic.

The performance was wrapped up in a collective circle of actors and audience members with a discussion on how to improve the communication microclimate in Odesa, how to develop a dialogue between and within different communities. And the question itself - what is a Local, and what is a Foreigner - remains open, because the value of art is precisely in raising questions and the variety of opinions.

© forumZFD/Stefania Amamdjian