Applied Theatre

Collaborating Across Borders: Theatre for Integration Project in Portugal

Between March 2016 and March 2017, students and staff from the Universidade do Minho in Portugal and from Buffalo State University in the US have been collaborating on an international service-learning project around refugee issues. Lying behind this work was a concern to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by refugees in the countries to which they travel in terms of housing, employment, language and education. For students involved in this project this has been combined with a strong sense of the academic value of service learning programmes that equip university students with skills and competencies that can be...

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Theatre of the Oppressed in Iraq

Theatre of the Oppressed was originated in the 1970s by a Brazilian theatre practitioner and activist, Augusto Boal (1931-2009). Influenced by Marxism, and by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Boal created a theatrical practice where the audience members cease to be passive receivers of performance and become active participants in it. This makes them what Boal calls “spect-actors,” engaging in “rehearsals of change.” One of the forms of the Theatre of the Oppressed he called “Forum Theatre.” The core concept of this form is that the “spect-actors” (participatory audience members) initially see a short performance, which dramatizes an issue...

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Anatomy of a Clown in Applied Theatre: From War-Torn Countries to Children Museums

 “Laughter is the brush that sweeps away the cobwebs of your heart.” –  Mort Walker, comic artist I did a volunteer training program for the medical staff of a leading Jordan medical university. As the attendees were all young people, we tried to keep the sessions lively by spicing things up with some humorous skits using the clown, Dr. von Poofen Spoof, who was our guest speaker – a crazy doctor speaking with a thick German accent dressed in a wild white wig, funny glasses, lab coat, stethoscope, and blue polka dot tie. The doctor illustrated the importance of...

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Elixir Mime Workshops for Thailand 2016

Thanks to the cooperation of several NGOs in Thailand, Elixir Mime was able to give three mime workshops and performances in Bangkok and one in Chiang Mai. These included the Thanksgiving Home (23 developmentally challenged kids and needy youth), the House of Blessing (about 30 kids born in prisons who were stigmatized or ­abandoned), and the Emergency Home (a protective shelter for those who have suffered from abuse, domestic violence, or rape). In Chiang Mai, we worked at an international school that was interested in training their teachers in performing arts methods, especially with Christmas in mind. We worked...

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Jordan’s National Center for Culture and Arts: Defying Stereotypes, Leading Cultural and Artistic Dialogue for Social Change in The Middle East

Think of the Middle East and theatre would not be the first image that comes to the mind of most people. Bombarded with images of war and radicalism that perpetuates Islamophobia and all the stereotype that comes with; the theatre is the last thing associated with the region. But The National Centre for Culture and Arts (NCCA) in Amman, Jordan is recognized for its pioneering role in introducing drama into mainstream education and the enhancement of the theater and dance movements in the country. It began in 1987 as the theatre in an education program for Noor Al Hussein...

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“An Enemy of the People”: The Egyptian Experience

It was September 2012 that I had decided to stage An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen. A play clearly criticizing the democracy of the boxes and propagating liberal democracy, it looked as if it were made exactly for the Egyptian situation. The democracy of the boxes in Egypt had brought the Muslim Brotherhood to the presidency. All performing arts entities were threatened by a religious regime aiming to erase any trace of artistic expression: the Brotherhood even went as far as to claim that arts do not constitute any part of the Egyptian identity; they defined the...

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The Others: Ensemble Workshops with Syrian Refugees

I moved to Lebanon this August to join the faculty of ACS at Beirut, after having spent six years teaching in Istanbul. At the recommendation of Dr. Fadi Skeiker, Professor of Theatre at the University of Jordan, the Lebanese NGO 961 – Art Factory invited me to teach drama workshops with young Syrian refugees. The workshop was a part of the national outreach phase of the Karama Beirut Human Rights Film Festival, which took place in Beirut last May. The theme of the festival, “The Others,” afforded me a way to enter these communities. Living abroad has provided me...

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Prison Theatre in Jordan

As Hakeem leaves the workshop that he leads in the Aljwaida prison for women in Jordan, he is usually surrounded by cops, who separate him from the prison inmates. A prisoner shouts out his name as she tries to make her way through the cops who are preventing her from crossing the designated line for prisoners. Gasping, she says, “Hakeem Harb, thank you for giving me hope and a glimpse of freedom. I promise you to get into theatre when I leave the prison.” Hakeem Harb is one of Jordan’s most celebrated professional directors. He studied theatre at Yarmouk...

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Dreams of Young Syrian Refugees Imagined

I am in the same room with three young asylum seekers from Syria—Abed, 17, from Deir al-Zour; Mohamad, 16, from Marj al-Sultan; and Odai, 17, a Palestinian who was born and raised in Syria. The three of them have come from Syria on death boats, and the three of them are interested in theater. I look at their eyes and I see determination, bravery, and hope. Thanks to Alexander Shroeder, a theater professor and an avid theater maker from Berlin, I was able to lead an applied theater workshop with three core members of his new theater company, one...

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