In the crowded Afghan refugee camps of northern Pakistan, just after the events of September 11, 2001, members of Bond Street Theatre came to bring a little joy to Afghan children and learn more about the conflict. There they met Exile Theatre, a dauntless band of Afghan actors who had formed in exile and dared to present live theatre despite all restrictions. The groups re-met in Afghanistan the following year as refugees from over 30 years of war began pouring back into the country after the fall of the Taliban.
After three decades of war, occupation, drought and constant displacement, Afghanistan is starting the long process of recovery. Beginning with the Russian invasion in 1979, followed by a decade of mujahideen-driven civil war, eight years of repressive Taliban rule, and US retaliation after September 11th, and an upsurge of violence in 2006, Afghanistan needs help more than ever.
- Theatre and all of the arts were decimated by the eight years of strict Taliban law. Most children under the age of 10 had never seen a performance of any kind, nor a painting, nor seen a dance.
- A generation of Afghan women and girls have gone without an education.
- The excessive violence and instability of the last decades in Afghanistan has created a population with disrupted coping skills, compounded by inconsistent schooling, work, recreation and voice in civic affairs.
BOND STREET IN AFGHANISTAN:
“We welcome your work as an educational theatrical method for our students, especially for our young generation who has been involved in war and conflict.” – Prof. Farooq Faryad, Dean of Fine Arts, Kabul University
Our long-term goal is to introduce culturally responsive, theatre-based educational programs into Afghan schools, especially targeting girls who have few outlets for creative physical expression, and to help revitalize the arts after years of cultural repression.
WORK WITH CHILDREN AND WOMEN
In the Spring of 2007, three members of Bond Street Theatre conducted a performance and workshop program in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif. The group offered theatre programs in partnership with Aschiana, an organization that provides basic education and meals for street-working children. Bond Street presented a comedic show for children in orphanages, schools, and at Aschiana where they also conducted special training sessions for their vocational students. In turn, these students helped lead the theatre workshops for the children and may continue the program. The workshops focused on games to encourage self-confidence, physical expression, and group cooperation.
In 2003, four members of Bond Street Theatre traveled to Afghanistan to collaborate with Exile Theatre, and to bring their healing, uplifting work to refugee families that were pouring back into the country. In partnership with Afghanistan-Schulen, they reached 25,000 children in the rural north, focusing especially on girls who were returning to school after four years of Taliban ban on education for girls.
In 2005, Bond Street Theatre actors made two journeys to Afghanistan, with residencies at Kabul University, to teach students and to prepare a collaborative production Beyond The Mirror with Exile Theatre. The visual-physical production depicted the decades of war in Afghanistan. The production premiered in Kabul and toured in Japan and the US with glowing response from audiences and media.
“The first collaboration between an Afghan and an American theatre company, [the play] has a quiet authority, even delicacy, that is truly powerful.”– Margo Jefferson, The New York Times
YouTube Bond Street Theatre in Afghanistan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0mYj3zjnCw&feature=player_embedded#t=28
YouTube ‘Beyond the Mirror’ Excerpts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x0GdqOTbL4&feature=player_embedded
Bond Street Theatre Web Site: http://www.bondst.org/activities/18/afghanistan and http://www.bondst.org/activities/12/us-premier-of-beyond-the-mirror
FROM THE PRESS ON ‘BEYOND THE MIRROR’
“The performance has a quiet authority, even delicacy that is truly powerful.” – Margo Jefferson, The New York Times
“The most stirring, affecting and significant event of the theatre season.” – Martin Denton, nytheatre.com
“A sharply observed and heart-wrenching portrayal of Afghanistan’s recent history.” – Josselyn Simpson, Time Out New York
“The collaboration has yielded lyrical imagery of almost aching beauty.” – Jorge Morales, Village Voice
“An inventive piece based on the true stories of Afghans who survived three decades of cruelty and hardship.” – Vibhuti Patel, Newsweek
“The Best Performance at the Festival, ‘Beyond the Mirror’ utilized a unique, creative and stylistic method.” – ISAF News – Afghanistan
“That this piece exists at all is a form of triumph and its own best example of international cooperation.” – J.Wynn Rousuck, Baltimore Sun
Visit Stage Voices blog: http://stagevoices.typepad.com/