Tuesday, December 04, 2007

From Afghanistan to India for Evaluation

After our adventure in Afghanistan teaching theatre to a primarily all-girls theatre group in the small, conservative city of Kunduz (read below!), we traveled to India for the next two weeks to conduct an evaluation on the projects we had initiated last Spring. We were very pleased to find that many of the students, teachers and organizations we collaborated with had continued the work based on our models and techniques.

A few examples:

We re-visited the small villages of Chandipur and Shahid Matangini in West Bengal, home of the Patachitra painters. The Patachitras make their living by selling their artwork which they present to the public accompanied by singing. They have practiced this art for hundreds of years. A group of 20 Patachitras participated in our workshops last Spring aimed at expanding their performing abilities and thus improving the saleability of their artwork which has been diminishing over the years. We created two new shows with the Patachitras. Now, six months later, we visited them to see if the new techniques they learned are being used.

We were very happy to find that the villagers were so taken with the new presentation techniques and ideas we gave them that they have now created a new performance piece based on current village events that has gained them much-needed attention and has measurably added to each of the participant's income.

The Patachitra's new piece takes place under a painted canopy, inspired by our workshop. We encouraged participants to paint other items besides their traditional scroll form.

The performing group consisted of three members from our workshop program and four other villagers whom they taught. This is highly unusual since the Patachitras never work as a group, only as individual painters. About their new spirit of cooperation, Bablu, who organized the ensemble, said, "I told the others, if these people could come together from the United States and Afghanistan to work with us, we should be able to meet between our villages!"

We also found that our past work at Gandhi Smriti in Delhi has opened new doors to our team member and collaborator, Subhash Rawat. As a direct result of the initiative in February at Gandhi Smriti teaching their vocational students, 30 young people, ten from our original workshops, got together under Subhash's direction to make a play about Gandhi's childhood "Moniya - the child that Mahatma was." We were in town for the premiere and it was a huge success! Many of the children in the play had never acted before, or had their first experience in our workshops last Spring. Now Gandhi Smriti plans to tour the new play throughout India. Congrats Subhash!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Final Presentation Day Afghanistan!

In a public ceremony on November 15th, we presented a demonstration of the techniques and skills learned in the workshops, and gave Certificates to each of the Mediothek Theatre students.

The presentation was the first time such a diverse display of theatrical techniques was ever seen in Kunduz, and it made quite an interesting performance and an amazing impression on the audience! The group did very well and we were proud of them. But there were a few surprises...

As the audience of invited guests, primarily male, arrived and took their seats, many of the girls' confidence slowly began to falter. It is profoundly difficult to be a female and present yourself publicly on stage in an environment where women are completely hidden. Although the girls were all eager and willing to display their new skills, when confronted with a live audience of men, many of whom they knew or were young men that they might marry, suddenly the situation became tough to face. We had made masks in previous workshops that were used in some parts of the show but, suddenly, all of the girls wanted to wear their masks! Many of the girls had performed several times before at the International Theatre Festivals in Kabul in front of far more critical audiences, but even seasoned performers can find an audience of family or friends a bit daunting.

I should add, the Mediothek staff were careful to invite only those people who have an active interest in theatre and its revitalization, and a willingness to accept women on the stage. And Bibimah, the Director, gave a fine talk prior to the show addressing the relevance of theatre in Afghan culture and why women's presence on the stage was not unIslamic.

In the end, the girls did perform with as much fervor as they could manage, and the response of the audience was superlative! They were very impressed to see the girls so competent on the stage, the quality of their acting, the beautiful mask work, maneuvering on the stilts, the range of techniques the young women and men had learned. If they noticed the girls' sudden timidity, they didn't mention it. And in the end, both girls and boys were very excited at what they had achieved and the wonderful response from the audience.

Our next challenge as teachers is to consider the best way to approach the issue. Can we encourage more women to join the audiences, and would that help? Most of these young women have aspirations to join the government, to become lawyers and politicians -- public roles indeed. Are there smaller steps we can take to empower the girls and, even more important, educate the audiences? Most of their sudden shyness was the fear of exposure, but the many of the physical techniques of stagecraft, such as martial arts and dance, are radical departures from accepted women's behavior in general.

Considering the obstacles, it is all the more remarkable that these young women have decided, completely on their own, to create theatre! We have a deeper appreciation for the very daring and outstanding choices they have made for themselves against all odds. Although these girls may not become actors in their adult lives, we know that the theatre training will give the girls poise, confidence and inspiration as they pursue their future careers.

We are really going to miss this energetic and fun loving group and we wish them luck as they continue in their work. We also hope to find funding to return and work again with the group: our plan is to create a piece together and to bring them to the US.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dust Storm

A dust storm kept us from performing at the orphanage today. We will have to try again tomorrow. It was like being in a white out—except a little dirtier. You could feel the grit in your teeth and on your tongue. All the day the sky was orange and then it began to snow sand!
(this is the actual color of the sky)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Workshops are Cookin'

We have one week of workshops under our belt and we have all had a great time! We are giving them a little bit of everything we know... a crash course in physical theatre. We begin with a creative movement warm-up and concentration games, and follow with the essential of acting: body language, working with text, the symbolism in actions, etc. Then there are the other skills: mask-making and mask performance, making puppets out of everyday objects (thanks Theatre Tsvete!), martial arts (stick fighting from the Philippines), stilt-walking, commedia dell'arte, acrobatic balances, rhythm games, juggling, and many other important elements of a physical theatre vocabulary. They love the masks -- we make the masks directly on the students' faces, a soothing process that results in an exact replica of each student's countenance.

It is rewarding to talk and interact with the young females of Afghanistan over these weeks. We feel we are getting to know about their lives, aspirations and dreams, such as going to university to become astronauts, teachers, and politicians. We know this theatre training is a good preparation for their future careers, even if they don't become theatre artists. Their self-confidence grows daily with each achievement.

Each day we wave goodbye to our female participants, very outgoing and talented students who we have just worked with closely for three hours, as they put on their burqas and step through the compound door. The situation is a disconnect for me... to see them slip beneath the veil. You'd think that these girls would be the ones to change things and refuse to wear the burqa. They are willing to see change, but also patient.... "In a few years things will be different," says Bibimah (which means good moon), the Director of the theatre group, who is 17 and began wearing the burqa only two months ago. Their families are worried about their safety. “We wear it because the security situation is not good in Afghanistan,” says another theatre student. "We don't mind it, but it is too bad that it covers the whole face." I gather that there is a little feminine mystique to the burqa too, a right of passage into womanhood for Afghan girls, like getting to wear high heels for the first time.

We are teaching one class also for children and they are bright and very enthusiastic. I don’t think they get the opportunity to have structured play very often. In fact, there are almost no playgrounds in Afghanistan—we have seen only one in our time in Kunduz.

The power has been out for more than two days now. It comes on in spurts and unexpectedly, so after dark, we work feverishly when it's on, and go to sleep early when it's not. We were so impressed that Kunduz had 24 hour power, one of the only places in Afghanistan, apparently, and now that familiar sound of the generator is our friend again. Fortunately, the daily classes are all held outside in the dusty sunshine.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Living in Afghanistan

The workshops have started well and we are more than busy: the theatre group in the morning, the ‘magic box’ children in the afternoon, and a class for older male students some evenings, as well as performances of “A Tale of Two Kites” at local schools and orphanages.

We were finally able to leave the Mediothek compound on foot today. It was an amazing experience to step outside the calm compound walls into the bustle of five o’clock commerce. The city is a sensory overload. The streets are busy with horse and donkey drawn carts heaving heavy loads of fruit and flour. The horses are decorated with colorful, decorative baubles and fake flowers adorn their harnesses. Bright blue, ornately decorated three wheeled rickshaws bear burqa clad women to work or to shopping, the rickshaw framing the half light of this very bright and dusty small city. The metal working shops are next to the fruit stands are next to the water pumps. Long quiet streets stretch away from the main drag, lined with trees. We achieve unisex roles when performing, but truth be told, there are not a lot of foreign women in Kunduz-- and the attention we get when we step out on the streets actually stops traffic. The scene is fascinating - we attempt to take everything in and yet somehow not create a stir.

At around the same time of our evening walk, there was what the news is calling a “major suicide attack” in the Baghlan Province, a neighboring district. The initial reports are that several important Parliamentarians as well as civilians and children have been killed, including Mostafa Kazemi, who was “a great man doing good things for Afghanistan” according to our friends here. We heard the news as we sat down to dinner. Everyone at Mediothek is shocked and saddened. Suicide attacks are a recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, giving a new edge to the violence here. “During the day we are smiling, but inside we are sad” Bibimah tells us of the Afghan sentiment about this attack.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Today we went on a search to get flowers for our comedic non-verbal show for the children: A Tale of Two Kites. On the wall next to a door there was a hand painted sign that said ‘All types of Flowars and Plants for sale’. An old man, stooped and smiling, led us into the compound, a hidden treasure…. a nursery with lush yards and a greenhouse. Inside, the old man cut flowers off the vine for us, chatting in Dari about the different plants. The greenhouse and gardens were calm and quiet and green, a world away from the dusty streets. We got to meet his wife too, an extra treat for the females of Bond Street who get to slip into the house and visit with the women while Michael must wait outside.

The shows have been extraordinarily fun and worth getting completely dirty top to toe. It is so great to see the children laugh and participate! Most have never seen a performance in their lives and are amazed at every little thing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Mediothek Theatre Group of Kunduz

Today, we arrived in Kunduz. We got here in a prop plane! 10 seats-- we almost had more luggage than the plane. They had to weigh the gear and each passenger to see if we were too heavy to fly—but we made it and we have arrived! The flight was 45 minutes over ravenous mountains that twisted like rivers and tributaries of mud and sand.... we landed at the airport: a small building and landing strip that was surrounded by scrap metal, rusting planes and pieces of army tanks… sort of how I imagine the surface of the moon. The city does not have domestic flights yet, like some of the other major cities to the north. Kunduz is a small city, with no buildings above two stories, surrounded by farms and green landscape. There are many children here, at play and also at work—lugging wheelbarrows, stacking bricks, and working the fields.

We are staying with Mediothek, an NGO that sponsors the girl’s theatre company. Mediothek (Media Center) of Afghanistan publishes Kunduz's only magazine, once a month, with an insert made by the teenagers of the theatre group who design the spread and do the reporting. The Mediothek compound, located in the center of town, is also a community center. The NGO offers many cultural programs like the "Magic Box," a creative play and performance program for children, as well as an active youth program that promotes journalism, film making, and theatre as a way to engage youth (boys and girls together) to become active in their community. The artistic programs also develop creativity, presentation and leadership skills.

We met the group today. They call themselves Mediothek Theatre Group, although they are considering a more descriptive name. They now have a few boys in the group, but the group is still primarily young women, ages 14-18 years old, directed by Bibimah, a lead actress in the group. The group was founded in 2004 by an enterprising young woman, Naseeba Holgar, who initiated the idea quite on her own and is now studying Law at Balkh University. Bibimah is heading to university next year. The group comes together for projects, but has a hard time meeting regularly since there are few performance opportunities for theatre groups in Kunduz. The annual Kabul Theatre Festival and a few Mediothek conferences provide the main outlet for their work.

We also shared our portfolio—it is always a great idea to bring tons of pictures to share as an introduction... now on to the fun (and tough) part of creating something together. We start workshops tomorrow... and continue through the next two weeks!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

November in AFGHANISTAN - to Kunduz

Three Bond Street Theatre members are in Afghanistan to work with an all-girls theatre company in the small city of Kunduz, located in the north of the country.

The flight out of Delhi was delayed 5 hours, so we did not arrive into Kabul until evening which is a hard time to arrive at the Kabul airport, with no lights in the parking lot and 7 large bags of theatrical supplies for only three people to lug, haggling for a taxi in the darkness. The Kabul Airport has improved greatly since the last time we came though - construction is underway! We are staying at the famed/infamous Mustafa Hotel in Kabul and there are a group of Aussies here on vacation, taking in the sights and traveling on local buses. Even the man at the front desk suggested that the drive to Kunduz, through the Salang Pass through the Hindu Kush mountain range, was safe. We hear about the beauty of the drive from everyone, but we do not want to take the risk. As for me, it is always difficult to come back to Afghanistan because of the worry of my family and all of the stories in the newspaper. But once I am here, in the everyday of a country that has everyday just like any other place in the world, I begin to relax. I am very excited about the project to come: working with an all girls theatre group in Kunduz!

Bond Street met the company at the International Theatre Festival of Kabul in 2005 while we were working on “Beyond the Mirror” with Exile Theatre. The girls had natural talent and with no formal training, they were better than many of the student groups from the theatre programs at the University. It is unusual and difficult for women to be on stage in Afghanistan and Bond Street was excited to see an all-girls group, especially from a more conservative area. We met the founder and former director of the company Nassiba in our last trip in May in Mazar-i-Sharif, but were unable to come to Kunduz. Now we are back in Afghanistan to work the young women. I look forward to meeting the group tomorrow and spending the weeks to come working together.

Friday, May 04, 2007

...and many happy returns.

I can count the days left on my fingers as this very long journey begins to wind down. Currently, we are in Afghanistan, working with an organization called Aschiana that runs soup kitchens and day centers for street working children all over Afghanistan, as well as a vocational training facility for older youth.

We are in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city to the north that is famous for a very large and very blue mosque claiming to be the final resting place of Mohamed’s son-in-law Ali. The mosque is painted with ornate decoration while fake plastic palm trees in various florescent colors line the marble courtyard and surrounding park. At night the whole mosque, including plastic palm trees is lit up like the Vegas strip.

The scene is enhanced by the always striking image of women beneath white burqas huddled in the few places of shade. Mazar is famous for the white burqa, while Kabul for the sky blue. I must say, despite myself, that the burqa can be visually stunning against the subdued hues of brown cobbled streets and unpainted houses.

The streets in Mazar are paved in sections of bumpy roads and then smooth concrete. The streets are lined by walls and long passageways that lead to more walls and doors. Colors are sparse, and after being India, they look tastefully simple. We are in a tall building, so we can peak into the courtyards surrounding us. Otherwise, life here is lived behind closed doors for the most part.

We performed a cut down version of the show we were doing for children in INDIA, as our group has gone from nine to three. We are performing in schools, orphanages, the Aschiana centers, and on Saturday the kindergarten! The children seem to really respond here, although you can tell they do not really know how to watch a show. Audience participation like clapping, etc is just not part of their socialization. Neither are some of the most basic things we take for granted like forming a line. The basic education classes attempt to instill these ideas while also focusing on literacy. Because the children work on the street for the most part and do not go to school, they can only spare an hour for education class. The extra enticement of a hot meal everyday gets about 120 children in the classroom for even a limited amount of time, a great accomplishment in my eyes.

Teaching workshops has been particularly noteworthy here because, right away, you can see the value in theatre games for teaching and improving coordination and listening skills. If given the time, space and consistency of a long term program, games with rules like “when I say 1:touch the wall, 2: touch the floor, 3: get in a circle 4: dance with a friend”, can decidedly help the everyday development of these children. In addition, we taught some of the vocational kids the games before hand so they could be the trainers when working with the children. It was so rewarding to see one woman take the class over and teach a game I had forgotten I had shown them.

We hope that they will take this into their lives in some way and more importantly that we can come back here after some time away. What a gift it would be to come back and see our trainings incorporated into their curriculum. Even to come back just to give them a smile would be such a blessing.

Life here feels very every day, a concept that is so hard to convey through emails and blogs. It’s hard for many to believe that a place that we hear about so frequently in the news can be a place of such normalcy. Of course, I am in the north, and look out of my bedroom window in the mornings to a rose garden. This place is of infinite wonder and contradiction to me, a place I would like to return to and a place I will never fully understand. Nor they me.

Ultimately, we hope that our work and our presence here has given people an alternative view to that they see on the news or in their streets. That there are Americans coming with roses in hand, instead of guns. I imagine that is what cultural exchange is all about; connections and questions, uncertainties and optimism, beginnings and hopefully many happy returns.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Greetings from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

We are alive and well and holed up for a week with an organization called Ashiana (meaning "nest" in Dari) which specializes in basic education for working street children and vocational training for ages 14 - 20. We just had the grand tour today and met the staff; and are getting geared up to introduce the students to new and creative ways of thinking.

Though we feel secure and are sensibly conducting ourselves, there is no question that the general mood here is that the country has gotten less stable over the last 3 years. The perception is that Pakistan is stirring up the trouble and, despite the rhetoric, the US is doing nothing to stop them. The details of course are more complicated we’re just trying to keep our heads low and concentrating on working with the kids to make them more happy and confident.

The end is drawing near, but there is still work to be done. Another note or two before this is all said and done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The last India chapter...

The India part of this adventure is quickly drawing to a close and the Afghanistan part is about to begin.

I thought by now I would be ready to head home, but I’ve gotten my second wind and am excited for the adventures that await us.

All in all, things have been going very well. I know I have learned a lot and enjoyed doing the shows and the challenge of the workshops. Everyone has worked at 110% of their capacity and we’ve contiunted to engage audiences and workshop participants wherever we’ve gone. The feedback that we got was always positive and we too have taken a great deal from each of our programs.

I think that in the future Hyderabad and it's surroundings areas might be the best place to concentrate future projects. It is easier to reach Muslim youth populations there and the theatre group we worked with, Koshish, was not only enthusiastic but also had a handful of women working with them. Both this connection and the connection with Banglanatak in Kolkata are ones to keep and grow.

While UNICEF and Gandhi Darshan/Smriti may be possible parnters in the future as well. We are working with one UNICEF group in Darshan now which is a tribal group of 30 children that live in a refugee camp just south of here. They are a great group and excellent students willing to try everything.

Well, that's the news for the moment—next stop Kabul.


coming full circle, back to Dehli

In Hyderabad, we arrived on the scene-- an actual street with motor bikes scooting past and the clamor of people all around. Then halfway through the show the sky turned dark and storm came to cut the heat and get all 200 audience members running for anything with an overhang. After the storm, our stage had turned into a giant puddle and we could not continue. I was not ready to leave, but we forge ahead.
We are now back in Delhi at the same place where we began.. the Gandhi Smiriti-- the place where Gandhi was shot- this time working with 30 children who have been brought here by UNICEF. They are from a region of India called Bastar; a region notorious for tribal violence and all of the children have been taken from the their homes, either because of violence or the threat of violence, and placed in boarding houses or refugee camps. We were hoping to go there, but UNICEF decided the trip would be too dangerous and that such a trip was a fantastic chance for these children to see

We are working with them for a week, doing theatre games, teaching circus arts, making masks. It is so amazing to return to Delhi after all of this time away. I remember thinking what a huge crazy, congested place. Now is seems so tame and orderly!

On Friday, we head to Afghanistan for three weeks of workshops and performing in Kabul and Masar-i-Sharif.

More from there…

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

From the dust of Bihar to heart of Hyderabad...

The Bihar workshops ended very well-- the theatre group we were working with was to give a small informal presentation to us to show their incorporation of workshop ideas (non-verbal communication, acrobatics, puppetry, etc) into their theatrical style. Before we knew it, the informal presentation turned into a crowd of 700 with street vendors selling peanuts and bikes parked in back like an official parking lot!

Our workshops are much more ephemeral – we do not know how our work is transferred, so the performance was a fantastic experience for us as we were able to see the direct application of our training on other theatre artists who work for social change.

The whole experience in Bihar left me wondering about the difference we are making here in such a short time. Is it possible to make an impact without knowing the language or spending time just getting to know a situation, a group, a set of circumstances? We are traveling here so much and doing so many things-- one never knows if a lot of little things add up in the end.

One particularly positive example: we were working outside and teaching an acrobatic move that requires four or more people to turn over at the same time so each person has their feet on the others back. We were working with the adults and before long there were around 200 kids and general onlookers. Not but 20 minutes later, all of the children were off in another field trying the move without us there at all, at least fifty kids working together to make it work. What a scene!!!

We are now in a new place, full of quirks and character. Hyderabad is a city of chadors and smog congested street corners and urban manifestations of rural life everywhere. The outside of Islamic buildings are so carefully constructed, with curvy organic shapes, arches and ornamentation you wouldn’t believe.

The Muslim women wear black burquas here, with only their eyes showing. The best part of this city is the juxtaposition everywhere; women wearing stylish sunglasses over their burquas, other women standing adjacent in a midriff sari of bright orange. The large British architecture of covered sidewalks stands in tandem with large Muslim influenced monuments and finally the huge lake that the city hugs with a statue of Buddha right in the middle.

We are working with COVA, a organization of many volunteer organizations that works for social progress in the city. They have an "in-house" theatre company that works to spread the message across about affordable housing. It’s really fantastic.

A few more workshops and performances- and then we’re back to Delhi before heading to Afghanistan. Every day another adventure in the making...

One month to go!


Monday, April 02, 2007

On to Bihar

We left Calcutta and are now in Bihar, known as one of the poorest and most lawless places in India.... and we are having a great time! We are in West Champaran in a town called Betiah. Every day we travel to a tiny and exquisitely beautiful village outside Betiah; poor but it is impeccably neat with tidy mud homes, thatched roofs and animals roaming everywhere. It's stunningly peaceful contrasted to the wet, nasty, crowded poverty of Kolkata.

Betiah is wild and noisy with tiny horses pulling carts, people, bicycles, cows, goats, dogs -- it's truly a zoo. The cows really do roam freely, wandering casually across traffic at their leisure.

We are working with women from the village who come to this small school for training in sewing. They are so modest and shy that they would hardly do the most simple of exercises. Thankfully they are beginning to open up, and they all came back after the break so we didn't completly scare them away.

We are working with a mask company that does a series of plays for UNICEF and their training is very simple. Our job is basically to teach them everything -- just "blow their minds" our UNICEF representative said. And so far they are loving it.

From here it’s off to Hyberdad, more to come!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New from India

Things are going great here working with the Patachitra painters. They are truly fantastic artists and we have really improved their performance abilities a lot already! They’re singing, dancing, enhancing their expressivity, and developing characters... and then to boot, yesterday they went on stilts and it was completely transformative! Even the old man and his wife, the most shy of the women, were up there and just beaming!! We are no
w on the way to their village and can you imagine how their neighbors will react to seeing them on the stilts and performing with a new pizzazz!

Love to all

Friday, March 16, 2007

A note from Kolkata

We’re here in Kolkata, and again we are working harder than ever! It's crazy but fun. We have put together our India-Afghan-US collaborative show, which we are all very excited about. It’s grown now to a cast of ten!!

Amitava here at Banglanatok is so attentive to all details and making sure we are accommodated in every way. The one thing he cannot control is the political situation. The exact area of Bengal, where we were planning to go, is now under police control as riots have already killed many people. It's a major deal here in India thouhgh it’s likely had no press in the US. It indicates a real shift in the political climate from a left wing to right wing position.

The farmers are having their land seized by industrial companies and the police are taking the sides of the industry even though the government has ALWAYS been pro-farmer. Not long ago, the police actually fired into the crowd of peasants and killed 17 people. Needless to say, everyone here is pretty much in shock and our work in that particular area has temporarily been put on hold.

We'll keep you posted,


Monday, February 26, 2007

a good day indeed

We did a show for children today of stilts, water spitting, kazoos and funny pants, our signature brand of theatrical mayhem. The idea was to get the ball rolling and the response seemed very enthusiastic.

I am looking at this work with eyes open; for once from the place of a practitioner and leader and everyday brings new discoveries and a renewed excitement. I’m beginning to believe that you haven’t really lived until you've gotten dunked in water and rolled around in the mud. I could get used to this — I really could!

Holi, the Indian celebration of color, is right around the corner and we don’t know what to expect, but boy are we excited. From what we’ve been told, everyone runs around for an entire day, smearing each other with colored chalk – orange, green, pink and blue. Can you imagine a whole festival holiday devoted to color? All I say is hoorah for dirty living! how lucky, lucky, lucky I am to be here....

We are staying at a guesthouse across the street from Gandhi’s cremation site and the grounds are calm and wonderful. We will present a show with the students on the morning of March 9th and then off to Kolkata.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Alive and Well in Delhi

Well it took us three days to get here, but we are alive and well here in India. We’ve settled into our rooms at Gandi Darshan and were put right to work at the center, in exchange for the food and lodging they are providing us. Already it’s a lot harder work than we anticipated. We have about 35 really good young adult students here at the Gandhi Center, and they are very enthusiastic and seem to enjoy the work.

We'll be here another week, and then we plan to head to Kolkata to begin our work with Banglanatak.

The team is tight and getting along well. It’s so exciting to have so much energy in one place like this.

More to come…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

...and a Happy New Year!

We're back! Coming back to New York has been like getting on a fast-moving train. We were immediately caught up in company activities not to mention the frenzy of the holiday season!

As we enter into the New Year things are looking quite promising for us here at Bond Street. Our planning trip to India was more enlightening then we anticipated. We met with several individuals and NGOs that are going to be fantastic resources and collaborators when we return in February. Everyone is very excited about our work and we expect a very positive response.

(PICTURE: children in a village outside Kolkata watched us work in an open theatre studio)

A partnership is also in the works with UNICEF to initiate a South Asian Social Theatre Institute (SASTI) at the Gandhi Center in Delhi. It will be a tremendous benefit to the field of social theatre and a great opportunity for us to share our knowledge and experience to make this program a reality.
(Picture : Ghandi Center performance pavillion, New Delhi)

We hope to design a full range of programming, and identify practitioners who will continue programs at the Center once we’ve returned to the US.

We will put together a team of 8 including a few of our Afghan partner and some new Indian artist as well. The initial phase of SASTI will involve direct collaboration with theatre artists and stakeholders, both in studio settings, at the Center, and in the field in conjunction with community programs. We hope the future of SASTI we include an expanded network of participants from other countries throughout South Asia including our some of our Afghan collaborators.

Our team will also work throughout Delhi to present performances and workshops with some of the following groups that have especially requested our assistance:

*Salaam Baalak Trust – to work with poor children living in the railroad station and to train and direct the young actors at their Center.
*Pravah – to help them develop their Theatre for Development program, and accompany their actors on some of their community work in Delhi and outside.
*Jagran NGO (Alanar) – to give workshops to their actors and perhaps join them on some of their work in the villages around Delhi.
*Jamia Millia Islamia University – to give guest lectures, presentations and workshops for their students in their new Development Communications program (part of the Mass Communications Department).
*God Graces School – to work with their teachers and students.
(PICTURE: Salaam Balak Trust youth theatre group performs play about abuse )
In addition to the work in Dehli, we will also be working in Kolkata and West Bengal with Banglanatak, a well-established social theatre organization. They have asked that we spend some time training the local theatre groups that they work with in the villages. Most of these groups follow very traditional performance techniques and we will have a great opportunity to learn from each other.

We are brimming with excitement here about the year to come. Keep checking the blog, throughout our trip, to hear the latest news from India. As always, we hope our family and friends, throughout the world, are enjoying a very happy new year!