Saturday 4 August 2012

         خطوة في بكرا 
        A Step into Tomorrow 

The Final Performance

photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah

Ashtar Theatre has organized an International Festival for youth between the 7th and the 17th of July 2012. The festival comes as a celebration of the theater’s 20th anniversary and the huge global success of Gaza Monologues.

The Festival “ A Step into Tomorrow”  has consisted of several different workshops that functioned to prepare the festival’s participants for the final performance that was performed on the 17th of July, the last day of the festival at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah.
From left to right
(Emile(Palestine), Sophiem Barclay (Denmark) and Majdi( Palestine))
photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah

The festival has invited several theater groups and individual with theatrical and artistic backgrounds from several countries such as, Germany, The United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, the United States, France, Poland, Ukraine, and Jordan. The Festival has also invited many of the local theaters, such as the Freedom Theatre (Jenin camp), Al-Hara theater (Bethlehem). Unfortunately and for financial reasons, many other local theaters were unable to join the festival such as “Oyoun Theater” (Majdal-shams) and “Yes” Theater (Hebron).

Marie Popall (Berlin)
photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah
The final performance was performed by 46 international and local actors. The final performance carried the name of “A Step into Tomorrow” and consisted mainly of several different scenes that represented various subjects and topics which all pour under the same theme “A step into Tomorrow”.

The Festival’s participants were trained mainly by four trainers:  Lydia Ziemke (Germany), Utah Plate (Germany), Annet Heinemann (Holland/ Italy), Fernando Nope (Sweden), and was supervised by Iman Aoun (Palestine).

The Festival's schedule with details:

1.     7 July 2012 – The opening ceremony was held at ASHTAR Theatre.  ASHTAR Theatre International Youth Festival - ATiYF is a continuation step of The Gaza Mono-Logues. Therefore, it was inaugurated by a presentation of the three documentaries of The Gaza Mono-Logues that represented the project from its local idea to its global implementation in the different countries around the world, ending with the performance at the UN in November 2010.  The trilogy of the documentaries, 25 minutes each, shed light on the human rights aspect of the project and on the youth of Gaza who had written the monologues and the youth of the world who had believed in their cause and raised their voices onto the world stage. The audience members at ASHTAR Theatre who attended the ATiYF opening were very touched and amazed by the energy of the youth participating in the project. Some of the international audience members were participants in the project and were very emotional about seeing themselves in the documentaries. ATiYF was aiming at giving a strong platform for youth to affect and enhance their future positively and they did.

90 audience members attended the opening. They came from the different cities of the WB in addition to the international participants of the festival. Adults represented 33% (14 males and 16 females), youth represented 61% (25 males and 30 females), and a few children 6% (3 males and 2 females).

The event was followed by a reception attended by the audience, the donors, and festival participants and ASHTAR staff.

2.     8 July 2012, “Face Hook” - a performance of Al Hara Theatre at Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Training Centre – Aida Refugee Camp. The audience were 150 persons, and they came from different places; Aida Camp, Beit Jala, and Bethlehem. The majority were from Aida Camp around 75 persons, those who came from Beit Jala and Bethlehem were around 25, and the festival participants 50. Adults represented 37% (35 males and 20 females), youth represented 50% (35 males and 40 females), and 13% were children (10 males and 10 females).

Following the performance a discussion took place around the themes of the presented play. The topics were related to youth concerns and suggested that social issues of youth are not a priority like political and national issues. The actors along with the majority of the audience were also involved in asserting the importance of presenting such social issues that relate to the youth sector.

Post the performance the festival participants took a tour inside the Refugee Camp and talked with several people about their situation, problems encountered and difficulties faced living near the wall. They were also taken to Solomon’s Pools and the Nativity Church in addition to a tour in the old city of Bethlehem.

Also on the way to Bethlehem in the bus there were lots of discussions and briefing for the international participants on the prevailing socio-political realities in Palestine. They saw the settlements and the separation wall. This evoked many questions and nationals clarified the situation.

A second activity was supposed to be playing at Alrowwad that evening, a documentary film called “Stones” on the role of drama. Produced by Görhönufilm and directed by Daniel Misota one of the participants from Hungary, who couldn’t arrive with the film on time therefore it was canceled.

3.     9 July 2012, “For Adults Only” a performance by ASHTAR Theater students, at ASHTAR Theater. 40 people were from the festival participants and 70 others came from Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate. Youth represented 62% (30 males and 38 females), adults represented 35% (18 males and 20 females), and children were only 3% (2 males and 2 females). 

The performance was praised by the audience, and congratulated the graduating students on the calibre of their theatrical skills.

4.     11 July 2012, “The Auction” the performance of Teatro di Nascosto, at The Freedom Theatre, Jenin Camp-Jenin. Freedom Theater hall was packed up with people from the Camp, the city of Jenin and the Festival’s participants. There were about 200 persons. Youth represented 70% of the audience’s majority (75 males and 65 females), while adults represented 25% (30 males and 20 females), and children were 5% of the audience (8 males and 2 females).

During and after the performance of “The Auction” a huge interaction between the audience and the actors was noticed. This was due to the great acting and the very evocative theme of selling precious and intimidating items. After the performance has ended, the Festival’s participants were taken on a tour in Jenin Refugee Camp. The participants were shown were Juliano Mer Khamis was assassinated, Jenin’s Martyrs’ graveyard, and the Camp where hundreds of Palestinians were murdered and more imprisoned.

5.     16 July 2012, The Closing Ceremony was held on the last day of the Camp-Festival, and took place at Ramallah Cultural Palace.

The donors were honoured and were awarded trophies. Also the local and international participating theatre groups and the international trainers were awarded trophies. In addition, Ashtar Theatre trainers who were responsible for training the graduates throughout their journey with Ashtar were also honoured (Mohammad Eid, Bayan Shbib, and Raed Al Ayasa)

It is worth noting that the masters of the ceremony were three of the graduating students. The graduation of Ashtar Theatre’s seventh class was followed for the 11 students.

The feature event of the ceremony was a huge performance “A Step into Tomorrow”; the joint performance represented 46 local and international theater students, who danced, sang and acted in front of around 600 people who came from everywhere mainly from Ramallah and Al Bireh Governorate, Jenin - mainly Jenin Refugee Camp, and Bethlehem Governorate. Several themes were presented within the performance, which was related to the issues pertaining to the participating theatre students at this stage of their lives such as: war, separation, love, identity, brotherhood, checkpoints, occupation, self discovery, prison, resistance, society, social classes, sex and religion.

The audience were mainly youth and represented 58% (170 males and 180 females), adults represented 35% (100 males and 110 females), and a few children represented 7% (22 males and 18 females).

 Challenges faced: 
In spite of the fact that the fund-raising phase started in September 2011, it took almost 10 months in this endeavour. The major problem faced by Ashtar Theatre administration and the students organizing the festival was the lack of funds. Almost 18 Palestinian companies/firms were contacted; we were not successful in securing the planned budget for the project. In addition to the main donor namely Sida – Sweden, we managed to secure the support from only 4 companies/firms their support for the festival (PADICO, Amarizian Publishing, Golden Globe Tours, The Episcopal TVT Centre – in kind contribution, National Beverage Company – in kind contribution). Unfortunately, this not only asserts the continued lack of opportunities for professional development and incentives for artistic innovation, but also reflects the realities of our society that continues to have a low level of awareness and appreciation of culture in general and theatre in specific.  

The international cultural centres in Ramallah supported some of the travel expenses of their nationals (e.g. Goethe Institute in Ramallah covered the cost of 7 participants from Schuabuhne). The French Cultural Centre in Ramallah covered the accommodation of one French person. The European Cultural Foundation covered the travel expenses of 10 members of Theatre di Nascosto.

This situation has lead to making some drastic changes throughout this period. The budget had to be modified and cut down almost after every meeting with the graduating students, meaning some of the expenses had be cut out and do the festival without them. For example, we had to ask the international participants to cover the cost of their travel till the borders. Thus only 23 internationals were able to join the Camp-Fest. We lost two theatre groups that were eager to participate; The Zimbabwean group “Zambuko/Izibuko Theatre Group” and a Tunisian group “Theatre Plus” since they were not able to raise the funds for their travel, although they have tried till the last minute. Also lack of funding led to taking the participants to Bethlehem and Jenin only unlike our previous ambition to expose them to several towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank.

Challenges Overcame:
Regardless of all the challenges that were faced, the graduating students managed to make it happen. They were able to hold a festival with participants from all over the world. They worked very hard over the 10 days, and came up with a show with their local and international counterparts that combined all of their talents from dance, to music, to acting in one show. They were able to learn a lot, meet new cultures, widen their horizons on different issues, and make new friends. 

Images from the Festival and the final Performance:

Siwar Abu sham'a ( Palestine) - in the center
from left to right
(Jeries, Emile, Basil, Rana (Palestine))
Valera (Ukraine), Pascal (UK), Karma (Jordan), Abdallah(Palestine).
photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah

from left to right
Darine (Jordan), Alex (UK), Mo'ayad(Palestine), Kamal (Palestine), Nizar(Palestine)
photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah

left to right
(Jeries, Fernando, suha, Asma, Kamal, Anna, Abdallah, Arabella, Sophie, Annet, Marie, Darine, Wiebke, Joanna, Karma, Saji, Rebecca, Utah, Ahlam, Iman.)
second row from left to right ( Pascal, Valentina, Sophie, Issa, Alex, Quds, Rana, Jude, Siwar, Melkar, Issa, Joasia, Besan, Lydia, Emile, Mo'auyad, Jenny, Yazan, Jenin, Tamsin, Travers, Valera.)
photo credit
Travers Jacob

from left to right
Melkar( Palestine), Joanna( Germany), Arabella(UK)
photo credit
Dr. Abdallah Abu Shararah

1 comment:

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