Citizen One – Jesse speaks about a new play


Johnny and Jesse are working on the production of a new play called Citizen One.

Set in the imaginary City of Neotopia, the play tells a story of a government frustrated by their city’s lack of growth.  In an attempt to identify the main obstacles to the city’s progress, a group of politicians invite in a team of foreign consultants to identify the problem.

After an exhaustive study, the consultants conclude that the main obstacle to the city’s growth is the citizens, recommending the introduction of a new kind of citizen – Citizen One. Free from the inconvenience of emotion and opinion, Citizen One promises to get things moving again, but things do not go as planned.

Jesse explains that the play pokes light-hearted fun at Auroville and some of the challenges facing it, including decision-making. “We constantly wrestle to come to grips with the fact that we’re a collaborative activity and that Auroville’s residents are its greatest resource, whilst I have also heard some people say that the residents are our biggest problem,” says Jesse, pointing out our habit of constant disagreement and blocking of action.

Interestingly, the play was originally planned to be performed in the Bharat Nivas, but the Bharat Nivas team refused, citing concerns that the characters: “seem to resemble in a strange way the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.” The team expressed particular concern about a key moment at the end of the story (which we cannot reveal without giving away the end). When asked about this, Jesse said that he was “amazed” that anyone could find parallels between the characters in Citizen One and Mother and Sri Aurobindo. “For the record, we never set out in any way to base the characters on Mother and Sri Aurobindo.”

He explains that the play itself follows the usual structure of epic story telling that was articulated famously by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’.  In these timeless, mythological stories, the hero’s outer journey reflects his or her inner journey, where often a character’s physical sacrifice for a greater good functions as a symbol for the inner step towards dissolution of the ego.

“Life in Auroville is a bit like living out an epic tale,” he says.

“I would never make fun of Mother and Sri Aurobindo,” says Jesse to me, “After all, aren’t we here because we believe in Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s work?”

This raises several questions in my mind:

In our commitment to search for living in accordance with the Charter and The Dream in Auroville, have we created figures and structures for ourselves, which we place beyond critique?

Have we made a religion of non-religion?

Do we now have a Ministry of Culture that decides what constitutes approved expression in Auroville and what does not?

Citizen One will be performed once, at the Kalabhumi Amphitheatre, 8pm, March 4, 2017.

Written for Auroville Art Service by Krishna, in collaboration with Jesse, editing by Petra

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