Changing society through theatre

Hopes for a drama school in the West Bank

GMT 12:46 2013 Monday ,18 March

Arab Today, arab today Hopes for a drama school in the West Bank

Drama students want locals to know the importance of culture in society
Ramallah - Arabstoday

Drama students want locals to know the importance of culture in society When Palestinian Malak Abu Gharbia was 12, she met the famous Syrian comedian Doraid Lahham after one of his plays. "He asked whether I wanted to become an actress one day too," the 20-year-old said. "I wasn't able to say a single word." But since the encounter, film and theatre have always been part of her life. She soaked up everything that had anything to do with it, read plays and went to see performances whenever possible.
For the past half a year, Malak has been able to live out her passion: she studies acting at the theatre academy in Ramallah in the West Bank. Juliet in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" was one of the first roles she learned.
The academy was founded in 2009 with the help of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. The teachers from there advise the Ramallah academy and exchanges and guest performances are part of the cooperation.
So far, the lion's share of funding has come from Germany, but Palestinian authorities in future also want to contribute. The academy contributed to maintaining the history, heritage and culture of Palestine, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at the opening in 2009.
Despite the euphoria, the initiators of the project are aware that they still face many difficulties. Aside from a lack of infrastructure, there also simply isn't enough acceptance of theater yet in the West Bank.
"In Arab countries, there's very little in the way of theatre culture," said George Ibrahim, head of the academy and actor and director of the Al-Kasaba theater in Ramallah, adding that was why there are very few contemporary plays.
In light of the situation in the West Bank, there's the added difficulty that people once again need to learn how important culture can be for their society. It's an experience that Malak also had, "I have met only with intolerance." In her small home village of Al-Ama near the Israeli fence, neighbours asked whether she didn't have anything better to do with her life than study something where she won't get a job or a have future.
Without the support of her family, Malak said she would not been able to pursue her dream - certainly not as she's a woman: "Women need the permission of the family," said Petra Bargouthi, one of the academy's instructors.
But even with permission is no guarantee students will finish their education. Often parents take their daughters back out of the school. Too often the studies there go against their religious sentiment. "Smoking for instance, or contact with men - those are things we can't have," said Barghouthi. Malak, however, said she is not willing to accept such a traditional view of women's roles in society, "It's something we have to change."

Source: Deutsche Welle

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