It’s been two days since I traded my bare forearm for a 15-minute intimate experience. Like a temporary tattoo, the painted figures are now disappearing into my skin, representative of the 68.5 million refugees fading away from their homelands, victims of violence and death. But the feelings that stirred deep within my heart and the queasiness that arose in my gut remain.
It was snowing as I slipped on the coat provided to protect my clothing and the headphones that would transport me, audibly, to choppy seas and seagulls’ calls. I sat down, put my arm in the hole in the wall next to me, and waited with curiosity.
‘As Far As My Fingertips Take Me’ is a short, but incredibly powerful piece…
Palestinian refugee Basel Zaraa began to speak, discussing his sisters’ journey as they escaped Syria and made their way toward Sweden. Meanwhile, he pressed my fingers onto ink pads and made prints. Immediately, I felt anxiety and fear sweep over me. The sound of Basel’s voice reassured me as a paintbrush touched my skin, but the words of his song, printed in English in front of me, turned my body tense.
Since its debut in 2016, Tahia El Khoury’s “As Far As My Fingertips Take Me” has traveled from London to Pennsylvania before stopping here in Washington, DC. The decision to set this production in the lobby, facing out towards the street, made the experience all the more challenging. I found it hard to sit still. My imagination kept going off throughout the performance as a result of the setting, but that’s perhaps El Khoury’s intention. Between the sirens of an ambulance whizzing through the street and the laughter of friends walking by the window, my thoughts were swirling about a million miles a minute. I found myself wondering what happened to the friends of Basel’s sister when they left, how the family of Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar is doing, and whether or not child refugees still feel the joy and magic that snow brings.
It should not matter the circumstances causing one person to cross from one land to another, but some have decided that it does, casting judgement and suspicion on those trying to stay alive. “As Far As My Fingertips Take Me” is a short, but incredibly powerful piece reminding its attendees, one by one, that refugees “only want what everyone wants.”
Running Time: 15 minutes with no intermission.
“As Far As My Fingertips Take Me” plays until February 6, 2019 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. Tickets are sold out, but a lottery system can be entered into here.