Bond Street Theatre serves refugee populations and communities affected by conflict by utilizing the arts as a pathway to peace and prosperity. We provide joy and laughter, educational enrichment, trauma relief, and cultural stimulation through our arts-based programming. The company is a non-profit NGO in association with the UN-DPI and has worked in a myriad of critical regions worldwide.
Program Associate Heddy Lahmann is a California native and a graduate of San Diego State and the University of Connecticut.
All Roads Lead to Bond Street
Heddy strikes a pose.
I was 11 when I got my first theatre bug. As a shy kid in a
new school forced to take a drama class, my first “solo” assignment filled me
with terror. Much to my surprise, however, my classmates gave me a resounding
round of applause when I finished my performance and suddenly I was receiving
recognition and even praise from peers that were waaaaay cooler than I. That
happenstance drama course gave me a confidence I'd never experienced before,
and ultimately changed the course of my life.
I pursued my education in theatre with a fervor that took me
through college and graduate school and ultimately brought me here to New York
City. And while that little 11 year old narcissist within is still alive and
well, my outlook on the application of theatre and performance in my own life
and the lives of others has changed in the years since middle school.
As a grad student, a teacher of mine spoke about his
experience working with an organization whose focus was international
humanitarian outreach through theatre. I'd never head of such a thing!
Something stirred inside and I had to get to know more. I wound up traveling as
a performer with Clowns Without Borders to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake
and performing in tent camps, schools, and hospitals. It was that trip that
solidified for me that theatre could be used in more dynamic ways than I had
ever imagined, and this was work that I wanted to pursue.
I stumbled on Bond Street Theatre's website via idealist.org
and knew I had to be a part of what they were doing somehow. In March I met
with Joanna and one week later I found myself in the loft space of BST, working
alongside superheroes. One week after that, and they had me traipsing around
the office on stilts! (These particular superheroes have no qualms about
sharing their superpowers.) The folks at BST continue to blow my mind with
their unwavering generosity of spirit, passion, dedication and drive to bring
theatre to the most remote and sometimes dangerous of places-- boldly going
where no one has gone before as pioneers for change. A day "at the
office" may consist of watching/editing videos from the latest journey to
Haiti or Afghanistan, booking the Stilt Band at a new venues, aiding in the preparation
of grants and final reports, watching and learning the Young Audience Program DVDs, or a trip to the illustrious basement to gather
another collection of treasures to take to Materials for the Arts. There's a
lot of pieces to the puzzle of what it takes to run such a uniquely small and
yet global operation. I am a happy little sponge during my hours here, taking
as much knowledge, skill and swagger as I can possibly absorb.
Most recently, preparations have been underway for
another Bond Street journey to Afghanistan, this one specifically to bring
theatre by Afghan women (trained by BST) to Afghan women in the
prison system. The empowerment I felt
as a timid adolescent that sparked my own love of theatre, that's what BST
takes to the most seemingly impossible of locations to the most seemingly
impossible of populations. On my own theatrical journey, I aspire to have the
bravery, gusto, and even a jot of the kind of impact that Bond Street has had
on the world. It's an epic and marvelous adventure to be learning about this
invaluable work and the special folks who do it.
This week, BST spotlights our Production Intern Charlotte Drover! Charlotte is a senior at Drew University with a focus in Theatre and Middle Eastern Studies.
In my overactive imagination, I've always
fancied myself a xenophile wanderlust Queen: I conquered the world's most
temperamental volcano in Sicily, dabbled in Arabic in high school, harboured a
rather conspicuous obsession with India, and left my heart and soul in
Londontown. I first learned of Bond Street Theatre's fascinating method through
my mentor and friend Olivia Harris and readied myself
to join with this creative force. My first toe-dip into the vast ocean of
applied theatre began my sophomore year with the Drew University -- Marion
Bolden Center Collaboration with Newark high school students. I concluded the
semester and second Collaboration year with a growing storm of questions to
bring to BST:
What are their international collaborations like? What challenges
do they face? How do they overcome those? How can I absorb this as an applied
Learning the ropes her first time up.
When I began my first day at BST, Joanna and
Michael bounced to greet me with spritely enthusiasm, an eagerness to teach,
and Afghan pistachios. They nourished my curiosity of stilt walking, flag
twirling, acrobatics, and the dynamics of a physical theatre stage picture. My
dance and theatre background enriched, I have learned so much in this whirligig
of a dramaturgical and production internship and specified my preference of
From Day 1, I was enamoured by the work I was fortunate
to do, obnoxiously gushing to my NYC friends and NH family about my
assignments. I devour my work: researching the reality of the Afghan woman and
her nation's progress towards equality, investigating the horrid detriments of
the 1984 Bhopal gas explosion and cataloging the images, video and data which
illuminate the disaster's chronic presence for Indian citizens, and distilling
the most effective means to measure the impact of theatre within a community.
Charlotte shows off her moves!
Yet what I am really savoring is how I'm maturing into a more effective
theatre practitioner. On only my second stilt lesson I decided, with a
Gemini's reckless nature, to start turning, balancing on one leg, and
skipping all on stilts. Two young ladies, neighbors of BST, shyly crept
by Shinbone Alley and peeped out a desire to learn to do what I garishly
did. Verbose reflection aside, I am really proud of the fact that I was
able teach them this skill that I just acquired, and kindling their
confidence and passing on the BST good mojo.
Through acrobatics workshops lead by Joanna I am more confident in
my ability to articulate why I love physical theatre: its ability to use
the body's specificity and eloquence to transcend the barriers of
language. I direct a play by Harold Pinter, a playwright who hates
language, in Spring 2013, and I will naturally adapt my learning to the
production and my final year as Bolden Collaboration mentor.
The other night I cruelly tortured myself by researching what
real-world, post-graduate programs in London offered degrees in applied
theatre and its cost (adding a few more links to the chain of my school
debt and misery). Yet I realized that it wasn't self-torment, but me
solidifying my faith in the power of Applied Theatre and what I can
offer that field from my BST internship. I've grown into the big girl
pants of my ambition by contributing real work for my dream company. Although I'm no clairvoyant, I can predict this with certainty: it will
be nothing short of an adventure.