Tuesday, February 06, 2018
Sitting in my Drama of Social Change class my senior year of college, my professor told us that the organization we select for the community service portion of the class must be important and personal to us. What is personal to me? I pondered this.
After 4 years in New York City I had found a new voice of the modern American woman, though the voice of my childhood and teenage years felt unresolved. I am a Saudi-American and I spent most of my life living in Bahrain. I considered the issues that had hindered me most in my life…perhaps the civil unrest that defined my final years in Bahrain? The inner conflict of embodying two opposing cultures? Or was it simply being a Saudi woman with a loud voice and a lot to say? I meditated on these questions and the next week I approached my professor asking for suggestions. As if premeditated, she shouted ‘Bond Street Theatre!’
Immediately captivated by their purpose, I contacted them right after class to find that they were working in Afghanistan. The very fact that they were working on peace building in a world so close to my own, physically there and committed to resolving conflict, enraptured me. I subscribed to Bond Street Theatre’s newsletters, followed their blog and stayed updated on the important work that they do. Following my graduation in May 2017, with a degree in Directing for Theatre, the Bond Street Theatre team was back in New York City and I applied for an internship.
Being from a mixed family, I have seen how a certain type of sensitivity can help bridge cultural boundaries, and Bond Street Theatre does that on a large scale. They generate important conversations between those who disagree, and allow each side to physically express their argument, enabling people to find common grounds.
I am very fortunate to have been exposed to theatre at a young age, and have found it to be my catharsis. Bond Street Theatre introduces theatre to communities where artistic platforms aren’t readily available, and in doing so they are giving people all over the world the freedom to use theatre to tell their stories. From undocumented refugees such as the Rohingya women Bond Street works with, to those incarcerated in literal prisons, Bond Street Theatre is committed to this beautiful type of artistic healing.
Bond Street Theatre has given me the freedom to hone in on my own interests and I narrowed my professional focus towards grant writing. As an emerging theatre artist, learning to write grants is crucial. This involves historical research and close attention to minor and major conflicts, studying them with a sensitivity and reporting them with accuracy. The research necessary for these grants has cultured me and given me knowledge of conflicts mainstream news sources don’t cover, conflicts I thought my Middle Eastern upbringing had exposed me to, but in many ways it shielded me from. In addition, I have written blog posts and found partnerships for the organization. Bond Street Theatre is helping me with my personal endeavors and teaching me how to make theatre for change. I have learnt here that anything is possible.
Joanna and Michael, our Artistic and Managing Director (otherwise known as the dynamic duo), have shown me the type of life a non-commercial theatre artist can lead. I admit that getting an artist degree was extremely scary for me; I didn’t know if that kind of life was realistic. Joanna and Michael literally live their art and have shown me that it is entirely possible to run a company, travel the world and help people. Though one theatre can’t change the world all on its own, it has certainly changed parts of it.