Mara Menzies

Mara Menzies

Dear Lyceum 

Isn’t it strange how things can change so quickly! My home, a quiet space to contemplate, is now a cacophony of children’s squabbling and joy. And you, accustomed to laughter and chaos must now contend with silence. So here we sit, waiting for the tide to turn. 

I miss you now, but the truth is we have not always been friends. In fact, there was a time I didn’t even know you existed. I come from a place where stories are told around the table. Where, as children, we chased after the drums in the dust and heat, watching worlds come alive on street corners, with the audience, a loud rambunctious rabble, often taking on roles.  

But a place? A physical place to attend, to observe, to make time for? This was new to me.   

And for a long time, I didn’t think you wanted me. I heard you speak, once, when I first arrived, but it was in a language I did not understand, or at least one I could not relate to. I did not see any role for me.  

Perhaps at that time, I wanted more than I thought you were able to give.  

But time brings change. Over the years, as I embraced my own stories, became more certain of my place in the world, the more I was able to see myself reflected in those who looked less like me, whose mannerisms were different to mine, yet still were capable of everything I was. So I became more open to the magic and wonder of other people’s stories.  

But it’s not just me who’s changed. I think you have too. Some might say that bricks and mortar can’t change, but that would be foolish because you are so much more than that. You are the souls of the people who inhabit you. The thinkers who dream and create. The magicians who cast their spell. The sounds and voices, the dances, the expressions, the energy that pours from the stage. I love it. I miss it.  

Never would I have imagined that I could ever dance on your stage, whirling around in a barber’s chair. But I have. I’ve occupied that space between life and death as I watched a man plunge into a void. I have laughed and cried with those around me as stories of womanhood ring out, and they ask us to ‘Hear, Word’.  

Now, I am just one of the thousands who have gazed up at your crystal chandelier, run my fingers over the gold, felt the tingle as the magic of a new world begins to reveal itself, sometimes even before the curtain is opened. Then you peel off layer after layer, holding up a mirror to myself. It is quite astonishing to think that some of these stories have existed in some form or another for thousands of years, each re-telling so different from the last. 

I hope, I wish, I pray that we can return to that time soon, but not all change is quick. Sometimes it is slow. Sometimes, time …. pushes ….  gently. Frustratingly so, and I see you straining for the power of new stories to be unleashed.  

There are some in our city who have not marvelled at the timelessness, the transcendent nature of story. Those who cannot comprehend the necessity of seeing stories play out from worlds they cannot imagine. Those who struggle when a story is presented in a way that does not fit, with what they believe. Those who believe their stories do not belong, do not matter or that no one cares. Yet as our world changes, as our city changes, as we change, I am sure that one day they will too. And long after I have gone, you, my friend, will still be here, the hopes, dreams, frustrations, anguish, desperation and joy of humanity playing out on the palm of your hand. It’s exciting! 

Tags: Letters