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.

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