Thursday, May 18, 2017

Behind the posters: Bond Street Theatre's work in the Balkans

There are a variety of ways to tell a single story. Recently, the posters from BST’s work overseas have been archived, and it is amazing (especially for the intern who archived them and is writing this blog) how much they have to tell.

This week, Bond Street Theatre shares the posters from our work in the Balkans, where the company initiated the Balkan Peace Project and formed the Performing Artists for Balkan Peace, an inter-Balkan network of artists. Back to the year 2000!

One year after the war in Kosovo, Bond Street Theatre came to the region in response to to an emerging need for  psychosocial support for  the population of the area. In 2000, Bond Street Theatre and Theatre Tsvete, a puppet theatre company from Bulgaria, created a non-verbal version of Romeo and Juliet as a part of the Balkan Peace Project initiated in Kosovo. The two companies’ goal was to address the tragedy of the war between neighbors through physical theatre and visual storytelling. The actors were able to symbolically talk about choosing between love and violence, following one’s heart and duty to defend.

The play was presented throughout Kosovo, featured at such festivals as the  International Theatre Festival Skampa in Albania,  the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania, and the International Festival of Alternative & New Theatre in Serbia. In partnership with UNICEF, Romeo and Juliet was performed in the most critical areas of Serbia, where ethnic tensions were still high. The play was warmly received, and the story resonated with audiences, providing a safe space to reflect on the conflict situation in the region.

A poster announcing the International Theatre Festival Skampa in Albania,
where Romeo and Juliet was presented, 2002

A poster announcing Romeo and Juliet, 2000

In 2005, continuing the collaboration in the region, theatre practitioners from Serbia, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, the UK and the USA convened in Bulgaria to initiate the Performing Artists for Balkan Peace network, which was devoted to free exchange of ideas and cross-border cooperation. The connected artists confirmed their role as global actors for social improvement, stressed the importance of involving and reaching local communities in peacemaking processes, and aimed to create arts projects that would address the current social and political issues of the Balkans.

A poster announcing free lectures, workshops, and performances from the
Performing Artists for Balkan Peace in Bulgaria, 2005
As a result of the collaboration,  five theatre directors united to craft a performance titled Honey and Blood. In the Turkish language, “bal” means honey and “kan” means blood. A performance conducted by 20 actors from 9 countries was presented to a wider audience, stimulating a cross-border dialogue.

An English version of a poster presenting Honey and Blood
in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2005
A Cyrillic version of a poster presenting Honey in Blood, 2005
The work of Bond Street Theatre and its partners in the Balkans went far beyond these posters. To quote  Bond Street Theatre’s Artistic Director, Joanna Sherman,  this social project, focused on relationships between artists from ethnically diverse backgrounds, was a success.“Could Kosovars and Serbs room together? Could five directors really create together in collaboration?  We were all sublimely pleased that the project was both a successful social experiment and a truly deep artistic experience as well”.

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