Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Intern spotlight: Rukhsar Balkhi

One of the best experiences of my life! This Summer of 2022, joining Bond Street Theater was one of the best opportunities and decisions I have ever made. The year of 2021 was a tough one for most of us and it somehow pressured us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But, spending two months with the Bond Street Theatre team was so healing for me. Maihan (my friend and fellow student) and I had an amazing time with the BST leadership team, and extremely understanding and supportive colleagues in the BST Youth Council. I am a senior student majoring in Human Rights in Bard College, I have been working in many NGOs, INGOs and at the US Embassy back in my home country, Afghanistan. I founded my own organization named Women Empowerment and Growth Organization. While applying for an internship at BST I was really excited to start my work because I had a deep relationship with NGOs and their work, especially NGOs working for women, children and youth. I believe that combining the arts and human rights will be a great idea for my senior project. I learned how useful theatre can be for conflict resolution, empathy, understanding, awareness, tolerance, trust building and mental health. I had the opportunity to do research on social justice issues related to my major Human Rights, in many countries like Kenya, Kazakhstan, Africa. I have got to know so many things about new countries I barely knew. It helped me to have a better understanding of different countries and how art can be a solution for many pains and issues. During my internship I saw many programs, pictures, videos which were taken in my home country Afghanistan and I can truly feel the connection and understood how much positive effect it had on those youths, women and children of a war and conflicted country. I believe BST implemented programs which feed the soul. I had an amazing time with Joanna and Micheal in the office. I met Tim and Sidonie from the BST Youth Council in person, and luckily in the first meeting we felt like we have known each other for years - that is what makes BST and our team different and unique because it makes you feel at home. I met the rest of the members online and am looking forward to meeting them in person soon. This will be a lifetime experience and a great network with who I want to and will be in contact forever. I hope to be a part of BST always and I feel a deep connection with the organization and its members. Working at BST as an intern was more than an internship for me, I learned a lot more than my expectations. I will try my best to be part of future projects which changes people’s lives for the better. I wish I had all of this knowledge and experience, gained in the past two months at BST, beforehand. That way, I would have been more successful in 2019 when I founded Women’s EGO… even with choosing the name of my organization! But, certainly it will help me in the future as I feel that the dream of working for Women and Youth in Afghanistan was put on hold - but it surely will come true here in the US through BST.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Intern Spotlight: Maihan Naimi

Hi there, my name is Maihan. I am in my third year at Bard College in New York, where I study Computer Science. I am an intern at the Bond Street Theater in Manhattan. In the meantime, I participated in Bard's globalization and international affairs program. I had been a student for three years at the American University in Afghanistan. After the government collapsed, I transferred to Bard College. At the Science Olympiad, I took home two silver medals in chemistry, and at the Amity International Olympiad, I got a bronze medal in biology. 

If I'm not at my desk, typing away on my aging Dell laptop, you can find me browsing the racks at the local mall or strolling the streets of the trendy district of Midtown. During my internship at Bond Street Theatre this summer of 2022, I learned how theater can shed light on issues of international relations, peacebuilding, and women's empowerment.




Over the course of my internship, Michael and Joanna have among other administrative work showed me how to stand and walk on stilts! At first, I thought that it would be challenging to walk on them; but, after trying it for myself, I discovered that it was not only easy but also incredibly fun. In addition to that, they shared with me their own experiences of juggling multiple responsibilities while standing on stilts, such as giving performances or playing musical instruments, which is truly fascinating. Also, they shared with me stories of Afghan women who walked on stilts, including how much they enjoyed doing it and how quickly they mastered the skill.
My sister and I always watched orphan girls on TV doing juggling and walking on stilts that NGOs like Bond Street Theatre in Afghanistan were working with. When I was younger, I always wanted to experience these two things, which, thanks to my internship, I did!
In addition, I’ve been under Casey's watchful eye throughout my time at Bond Street Theatre. Casey has not only been an excellent manager, but also a remarkable mentor for those under her guidance. She walked us through the process of applying for grants, writing proposals, showed us exactly where to seek funds, and provided us with extremely helpful writing advice for project development going forward. She has taught me a lot, which I am very grateful for. Since she’s in the South Africa office, I wish to meet her one day in person :)


Now that I am a member of the BST Youth Advisory Council, I have the opportunity to get to know all of the other young artists and educators who have worked here in the past. It is very thoughtful of the leadership of this company to maintain regular communication with the interns they’ve employed in the past. 



Summer 2022

A delectable treat from Bond Street. On the last day of our internship, Joanna and Michael  took us out to dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, the company, and the opportunity to hear Joanna and Michael's beautiful stories of my homeland. 

I'd want to thank BST, the company that gave me my first taste of the American working environment. as well as packing my summer with exciting and memorable experiences. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Intern Spotlight: Molly Stone

 Finding Community in Social Distance

From the beginning, Bond Street Theatre excited me with their commitment to using theatre as a tool for change. I learned of the organization through a passion for empathy, conflict resolution and the power of theatre. During my final year at Grinnell College, I conducted a research project with my advisor, Dr. John Garrison, about the power of performance as a tool for peace. While researching All My Sons, the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace and “Give Peace a Chance,” I delved into non-profit organizations that utilize performance to explore social justice themes. I discovered Bond Street Theatre and, as I learned more about their incredible work, I decided to reach out to get involved. I am very thankful that I did. 

Although I initially expected to be in New York City with the team, the pandemic shaped my experience into a virtual summer internship. This, however, did not take away from the incredible relationships and essential skills I developed over the course of three months. I stepped into a community that welcomed me and my ideas, encouraging me to learn and grow. I researched countries for grant proposals, developed a new Twitter strategy, and conducted grant research. My biggest project grew out of my desire to build connection and accountability despite physical distance. Bond Street has an incredible network of past interns who share strong beliefs in the power of theatre and its place in changing the world. I wanted to bring together the youth members on a monthly basis to discuss current social issues, brainstorm ideas, and explore ways that the organization’s work could evolve. Our first meeting took place at the end of July, when we all came together to share anti-racism resources and explore our role as individuals and members of Bond Street in the fight for racial justice.


My internship may have ended in August, but my involvement with Bond Street is far from over. The Youth Group continues to meet monthly as new interns lead discussions on issues close to their heart. The Bond Street community is not a stranger to distance and the conducting of important projects across borders, so this group easily maintains an honest and open space for Bond Street-related brainstorming, personal project development, and essential conversations with like-minded artists. Tim Steckler, a fellow Bond Street Youth member, came to the group with a desire to create a space where theatre can be used as a tool to explore anti-racist allyship. Now, Theatre for Anti-Racist Allyship (TARA) meets weekly where we discuss important texts, learn together about our roles in working towards a more compassionate, just world, and develop theatre techniques that can be used to explore anti-racist allyship. Personally, I hope for more domestic Bond Street programming in the future and I continue to develop ideas that may one day be implemented into a project stateside. I am beyond grateful for the community I found in Bond Street, the amazing friendships that have developed out of the Youth Group, and the commitment we all have to develop projects that combine performance and social change. I look forward to seeing how Bond Street Theatre and all those who support it will continue to create projects that prove performance is a strong, essential tool for the peace-making we all wish to see in the world. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Intern Sportlight: Nina Rosstalnyj

This month Nina Rosstalnyj, our new intern from the Central European University and participant of Bard College's BGIA program, writes about her connection to theatre and what brought her to Bond Street Theatre.

All my life I wanted to become an actress – not like many teenage girls who dream about Hollywood and life as a movie star. Rather, I wished to be a true artist who devotes her body and soul to expressing feelings and words that are not her own. I wanted to relay a message to the audience and make them feel something they didn’t expect, make them speak about something they didn’t even think of before, and change people’s view on the world for a slight moment when they are in the theatre.

I was part of theatre groups in high school, had the chance to accompany my dad who is an actor, and even played small roles in two movies myself. Two short internships with movie productions and countless theatre visits supposedly "prepared me for my mission to get into an acting school". After high school I started with the hearings at national academies which took me to eleven different schools in eight different cities in Austria and Germany within four months. Looking back this was an exciting time because I traveled alone so much - I could explore new cities, meet interesting new people that shared a dream with me and I felt so grown up after managing the whole process on my own. Luckily, I had great support from my family, and working together on the monologues brought me closer to my dad.

On the other hand, the pressure was immense. You only have a few moments to convince the jury, and the performance has to be perfect no matter how exhausted you are from hours of waiting until your name is called, and no matter how nervous you are after spending half of the day with other nervous people. After the performance, sometimes you see the jury sometimes you don’t, sometimes you choose which role to start with, sometimes they do, and the waiting begins anew. And then you get a simple ‘no’ without any further feedback; is it a ‘MY GOSH NOOOOO!’ or more a ‘no, but maybe next year’?

After too many ungraspable ‘no's’ I was so frustrated that I decided to do something totally different in my life, and to never even think about theatre again. It took me three years of studying political science in a new city, one internship at the German embassy in Ukraine and five months student's exchange in Romania to overcome my anger and unwillingness towards performing theatre myself. In my last undergraduate year, I participated in the University's theatre group and learned to appreciate it as a hobby, without all the pressure I put on myself before and, in the meantime, political activism and the theory behind it had become my new passion.

When planning my future and applying for a graduate degree, I didn't think of the possibility of combining the two worlds of theatre and the political, my two passions. You already guessed it: this is where Bond Street Theatre is showing me the perfect alliance between the arts and peacebuilding, acting and healing. Now, the naïve dreams of 'younger me' and the present 'political me' have come together.

I hope to be a valuable member of Bond Street Theatre as a communications associate focusing on Ukraine in that I will develop my own project in the country that I call my second home. I grew up in Germany with all the privileges that go with it. But in 2014 when the conflict in Ukraine broke out, and in 2015 many people fled war and sought refuge in Europe, I understood that these privileges only exist for a tiny fraction of people. Hopefully, I will have the chance to form part of a project that changes the situation of some individuals for the better, even if it is only small moments of joy, or confidence-building. After all, this is a wish I always had.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Intern Spotlight: Erin Eubanks

This week Erin Eubanks, our social media and documentary intern from the University of Texas, writes about her experience from the New York office.

Greetings, all. The above picture is a series of mirror selfies I took in the Bond Street office throughout my internship. As the social media intern, it only seemed fitting that I documented my experience as such. Apart from photographing myself on various days of the week, I found time to do some pretty cool work. I'll tell you about the work I did, but first, an introduction!

Hi. Howdy. Yeehaw. I'm Erin, and I'm from Texas. (Though I should note, Joanna did remark at my lack of a Texan accent. I know — a bummer.) I'm a Journalism and Philosophy student at the University of Texas, and found myself up in the chilly northern city of New York for what would have been a 5-month program if our good ol' pal Corona hadn't decided to pay us a visit and send me back down south. Alas! 

During my time in the office, I had the privilege of scrounging through Bond Street's myriad of photos and videos they've collected throughout the decades of work to find good ones post on social media. (Roughly 160,000 photos, just to throw a number out there. I don't even have an estimate on the videos.) Nearly every photo sparked a story for Joanna and Michael, and through their stories and photos, I got to take a mental trip around the world without having to pay for a single airline ticket. I learned SO much about massive issues that currently affect women and children around the world that I hadn't even heard about before. I learned about the lack of education for girls in Afghanistan, domestic violence following the earthquake in Haiti, children in poverty in India, and so much more. 

Bond Street's theatre projects have addressed each of these issues, in addition to so so many more, and I had the opportunity to create one-minute documentary videos sharing their projects and the context of each issue addressed by the project in hopes of helping others understand the Bond Street team have done.

You know, I've always had an appreciation for theatre as a form of entertainment, as I myself act in a sketch comedy show at my university, but I've never known theatre to be a tool for education and social justice. From listening to Joanna and Michael's stories, I've gained such a profound appreciation for theatre as a method of improving the world. You may not know this, but not everyone speaks the same language across the globe. I know, I know — crazy right?!? The physical theatre that Bond Street has mastered breaks those linguistic barriers right down and creates this amazing mutual understanding between people of different backgrounds; an understanding that couldn't exist with a mere conversation. They're such truly incredible individuals, and what a astounding company they've created. Okay, okay, I'm done being all cheesy and what not. For the time being.

In addition to become much more globally aware, I also got to learn a bit of accordion, a few plate tricks, and being inspired by photos and videos of the Bond Street ensemble performing, I taught myself how to juggle upon returning to Texas. 

Although I only got to spend two months in New York working alongside Joanna, Michael, Tim, (the other intern and my now good friend) and through Skype with the oh-so-amazing communication director Casey, I feel so appreciative to have gained so much knowledge (and I mean so much... my brain is just permanently swollen with information now) and to have been able to create social media posts and mini docs for Bond Street. 

Welp, folks, that's all of my story. Thanks for reading! And as we say down here in Texas... 

Don't let the boot hit ya on the way out!

(okay, yes, that's the first time I've ever said that)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Border Stories: a US-India-Bangladesh collaborative adventure

     Performance in the No-Man's-Land between the India and Bangladesh borders.

"The harshest borders are created in the mind. If they didn't exist in the mind first, they wouldn't manifest on the ground." – a participant from India

Bond Street Theatre has a long history of working in areas in conflict, most of which are caused by perceived differences in ethnicity, religion or lifestyle otherness.  Through theatre performance, we seek to break through the borders of the mind to create harmony on our beleaguered planet.  This belief in the power of theatre has brought us to work with Rohingya refugees dispelled from Myanmar, migrant workers in Russia and Malaysia, and with youth striving for peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now we have returned from India where our dramatic performances created with Bangladeshi and Indian actors, musicians and dancers illuminated the tragedy of borders.  Tears streamed down the faces of those in our audiences old enough to remember the 1947 partitioning of India and Bangladesh, which tore apart families and friends. As Arts Envoys through the US Embassy, and with our longtime friends and collaborators, Banglanatak, we learned so much more than the history books reveal. 

Bangladesh and India share the fifth longest border in the world, dividing towns, farms, rivers, and even homes.  But where is the “otherness” here?  The people are the same on both sides, having lived side by side for years, eaten the same food, enjoyed the same livelihoods.  Our play illuminates such a situation: two families, one Hindu and one Muslim, close friends for years with youngsters growing up together, suddenly split apart and cast to different misfortunes.  In the end of the play, the women are the heroines, finding ways to keep their families intact despite the disruptions, although only able to visit each other through layers of barbed wire barriers. 

In our post-show discussions, I recall stating how ironic I felt it is that religion was the basis for tearing people apart when virtually every religion preaches love, compassion and generosity toward one’s neighbor.

We brought our show to border towns, including Petrapole, a major border checkpoint.  Through the play, we reminded audiences that people suffer on both sides of the divide. 

"A border is not just a physical fence.  These shared communities, shared experiences, shared families, shared food... the border is in our heads." – participant from Bangladesh

The process of creating the production was a joy.  We began with a series of exercises to bring the group together into a cohesive team, and explore the full range of issues attached to the partitioning.  What was truly inspiring to us was the diversity of skills in the group: filmmakers, journalists, actors, dancers, athletes, visual artists, and media experts. With such a talented team, I knew we would create a dynamic play with a message of value.

Over the first three days, we created a selection of short stories or vignettes that covered, not only the major issue of separation, but the nuances of family life, occupations, economics, religious rituals, local foods, politics, and the like. On day four, we put our stories together and created the outline of our play, and day five was our first run-through.  Now the exciting part: the musicians, singers, dancers, puppeteers, mask-makers and set designers embellished every moment of the play with the flavor and dynamics of the Bengali people, all borders aside.

The final play was rich with dance and music, visual excitement, and the tragedy and drama that brought the audiences to tears in some parts and to laughter in others.  When presenting a tragic theme, a comedic balance is essential.  Most important, our presentations brought home the idea that, although hate and fear makes mending borders so difficult, theatre breaks down the borders of the mind and reminds us that we are all the same.

"This theatre work has helped me really understand the feeling of a refugee... now I know the pain of refugees and I will count them as humans, not just refugees. Refugee is just a name."
- participant from Bangladesh

     "Border Stories" performance at the Kolkata College of Music

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Intern Spotlight: Rania

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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. According to UN Women estimates:

  • 750 million women and girls alive today married before their 18th birthday
  • 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence
  • Approximately 120 million girls worldwide have experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse and/or sexual assault

Bond Street Theatre works with women globally who are survivors of abuse, forced marriages, sexual violence, and incarceration. By teaching theatre, we create a platform for women to use their voice to speak out against the violence that they have been subjugated to.

Bond Street Theatre has worked with women all over the world, introducing theatre as a tool to amplify their voices. We have collaborated with women and girls in the US, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and more, and we know that discrimination, harassment, unfair treatment and violence against women are global issues.

Recently, we began a project with members of Malaysia’s  Rohingya community, and in doing so we helped facilitate the creation of the Rohingya Women's Theatre. The five members of the new ensemble were each married by age 15 and had no experience with theatre beyond Bollywood dramas. By using theatre, we were able to offer creative tools to share their stories and promote their rights.

From 2011 to 2014, Bond Street Theatre worked with inmates at a women's prison in Afghanistan, many of whom are survivors of abuse. The program was launched with the support of Dining for Women. We encountered many inmates who have faced systemic violence and a flawed legal system, and offered healing ways to approach problems, learn their legal rights, and develop the communication skills and motivation to speak out for justice. In addition, they learned educational and creative activities to enjoy with their children who were incarcerated with them.

Bond Street Theatre continues to promote an end to violence against women, both through our work with women and girls and, equally importantly, by engaging men and boys to speak out for justice. Through artistic solutions, we aim to change entrenched cultural gender norms present in communities from the US to Afghanistan, and to bring an end to violence against women.

 Members of the Rohingya Women's Theatre and Masakini Theatre perform a play about refugee rights in Malaysia.
Violence against women needs to be eliminated now. Today, we are inspired to continue in our line of work towards a better world, with artistic rigour, cultural sensitivities and diligence. While noting the strides that we have made, we  know that there is so much more work to be done. Today and everyday, Bond Street Theatre joins with our sisters and fellow advocates around the world in saying NO MORE.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Malaysia: Scenes from Kuala Lumpur

Performances are well underway as we continue our inaugural project in Malaysia, partnering with Asylum Access Malaysia to create programming with Kuala Lumpur's refugee population. Working with local troupe Masakini Theatre, as well as the Rohingya Women's Development Network and Somali Community Coalition, we've created a series of performances addressing common issues faced by refugees, from access to healthcare, to interactions with law enforcement, to applying for status with UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).

Performances also address resources that refugees can access to help deal with common issues, as seen in this snapshot of a rehearsal with Masakini Theatre. Though Malaysia is not a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees, domestic and international non-profits operating in the country do offer some limited resources.

All performances are interactive, meaning that audience members have the opportunity to discuss, or even correct information presented based on their experiences. This is both an effective tool for sparking dialogue among refugees, and for relaying the most up-to-date information about refugee experiences to advocacy groups attending performances.

Audience members ranged in age, nationality, religion, gender and background. Here, some of our youngest audience members enjoy a refreshing post-show treat with a cast member.

The program has been a great success, and we are so excited to share that the Rohingya Women's Development Network and Somali Community Coalition will continue to train with Masakini Theatre.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Working with Refugees in Malaysia

Greetings from Malaysia, where Bond Street is launching its newest project working with refugee groups.

More than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers are registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, coming from a range of countries and languishing in makeshift housing.

Many have fled active conflicts in Myanmar, where Bond Street has been working since 2009, while others have traveled from Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria. With the influx of men, women and children from different parts of the world, language barriers, cultural differences, and lack of employment plague refugees who struggle to start a new life.

We are partnering with Asylum Access Malaysia – a respected advocate for refugee rights – to implement programming that will assist in their work. Asylum Access runs a variety of “know your options” trainings for refugees, covering everything from healthcare access to education to UNHCR registration.

However, these trainings are often delivered by PowerPoint, which presents a challenge since many of Malaysia’s refugees are illiterate.

That’s where theatre will come in.

A workshop with the Rohingya Women's Development Network

First, we are working with a group of Rohingya women who want to learn theatre. We are working on teaching theatre techniques, and on identifying a range of problems faced by the community, which we will later work together to dramatize.

We are also working with a mixed-gender group of Somali refugees who have newly formed a community advocacy organization. When we did our Problem Tree exercise, where participants speak about local issues and their causes, the group named cultural integration, language barriers, and jobs among their concerns.

Finally, we are working with Masakini Theatre, a Malaysian troupe, to bring Asylum Access's PowerPoints to life.

After one week, we’re already off to a great start. We can’t wait to see where this project takes us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Celebrating World Refugee Day

It is World Refugee Day, and here at Bond Street Theatre we are taking the opportunity to commemorate the resilience, strength, and courage of millions of refugees all over the world. Today, we encourage you, our friends and colleagues, to educate yourselves on the very serious refugee crisis that continues to impact our world.

According to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), there are currently 65.6 million people who have been displaced worldwide. 22.5 million are refugees and 10 million are stateless. Refugees are defined as individuals that have been displaced and forced to leave their homes due to war, famine, persecution, or violence. Their ability to succeed in the face of everything is remarkable.

A citizen of any given country is guaranteed a set of basic human rights but, as a refugee, a person may lose access to these rights and protections. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, all refugees have the right to safe asylum, the right to not be forcibly returned to their country of origin, and the same rights as any foreigner who is a legal resident, including freedom of thought, movement and freedom from torture.

However, in countries that did not sign the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees are left vulnerable and they are often stripped of access to these rights. This is why we at Bond Street Theatre continue our commitment to working with refugees, and why we are bringing new refugee-centered projects to Malaysia in 2017.

Theatre creates the space for laughter, for critical thought, for expression, for mutual understanding, and so much more. At Bond Street Theatre, we challenge and call upon all artists to spread tolerance, especially towards people who are facing turmoil and persecution, and to seek out new opportunities to learn from others.

Below we share stories of those from the refugee communities that we have had the privilege of learning from:

1987: Montreal
In 1987, BST was invited to Montreal’s International Youth for Peace and Justice Program to address 60 teenagers from 45 war-torn nations on the power of theatre, and to teach them practical popular theatre techniques.

1999: Kosovo Refugee Camps - Macedonia
As an immediate response to the war in Kosovo, BST initiated a three-week program bringing laughter, joy, and creative play to more than 10,000 Kosovar children, many of whom had been traumatized by the war, in seven refugee camps located throughout Macedonia.

We staged shows in open areas before audiences of 1,000-2,000 people, and taught mime and theatre games to the children. When we returned to the camps later, we were pleased to find the children demonstrating what they had learned from days before. This project has clearly demonstrated to us the value of interactive theatre, and the healing power of all of the expressive arts.

2001: Afghan Refugee Camps - Pakistan
Following September 11, 2001, BST members traveled to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to bring joy and laughter to Afghan children, conduct workshops, and learn more about the conflict.

We returned in 2002 to refugee camps in Peshawar, where 10,000 Afghan boys and girls were reached with live performances new confidence-building skills and games. The company trained teachers from Plan International to use theatre-based educational activities for children, bringing this program to rural villages in Chakwal.

2003: Exile Theatre - Afghanistan
BST began a collaboration with Exile Theatre, aimed at bringing healing programs to refugee families that were pouring back into the country. With partner group Afghanistan-Schulen, Bond Street reached 25,000 children in the rural north, focusing especially on girls who were returning to school.

2007: India
Bond Street traveled to India to conduct mask-making and physical expression workshops with 30 children from the violence-ridden area of Bastar in central India. These refugee children had been traumatized by years of rebel uprisings, and our workshops moved from liberating games to image-making relating to their emotions.

2011-2012: Refugee Camps - Haiti
BST conducted training programs for FAVILEK, a theatre group of female sexual violence survivors in Haiti, with tours in refugee areas and tent camps in the post-earthquake areas.

2016: Borak Arts Series - Penang Malaysia
Bond Street Theatre's Artistic Director, Joanna Sherman, was a featured speaker at the Borak Arts Series in Penang, Malaysia. The series is designed to provide an international forum in which artists and activists from around the world can share information and ideas. Joanna spoke about the relationship between sustainable social development and performance, and demonstrated for the audience of artists, many of whom are working with migrants and refugees in the Malaysian region, some of the useful exercises and techniques they could use in their work.

Summer 2017: Malaysia
This summer we will be traveling back to Malaysia to embark upon a new theatre project. Bond Street will work with refugees, many of whom are currently living without access to basic rights, as Malaysia is not a signatory of the 1951 Convention on Refugees. Many  do not have access to legal residences, education, or employment, let alone work permits. Because they are not recognized as refugees, they have very little protection from local law enforcement, often leading to brutality and corruption.

On World Refugee Day, we celebrate the lives and accomplishments of refugees all over the world. Refugees around the world are in need of assistance, so we encourage everyone to do what you can to help, whether it be donating, volunteering, or welcoming refugees into your home, community, or country!

Links to Learn More!