7 July 2011
A series of fun theatre and acting workshops took centre stage in Gaza this week, as part of UNRWA’s annual summer games programme. In playgrounds throughout the Strip, theatrical extravaganzas took place, helping to build the confidence and creativity of young people aged from six to 15.
At the UNRWA Gaza Girls’ School in Gaza City, students and staff teamed up with the Palestinian drama group Theatre Day Productions (Ayyam al Masrah) to learn how to express themselves and deal with problems both on and off stage.
In a makeshift stage in the middle of the playground on this very hot day, Ayyam al Masrah’s actors perform a short play about life as a young girl in Gaza. Juju, the main character, hates everything, she tells her rapt audience. Cleaning, cooking, eating, smiling, laughing… as the list goes on, the young crowd begins to giggle.
After much farce, the show ends happily, as Juju’s friends persuade her to change her ways and learn to appreciate life.
The idea of the theatre activity is to give students a chance to express themselves in new ways, and to reflect on issues that they might normally feel are taboo, says Iman Al Atawna, the girls’ teacher and an organiser of the activity.
“Theatre is so good for them, because it reflects real life,” she says.
“The singing, the dancing – the children tell me they love it!”
After the play, the actors lead a discussion with their young audience. “What did you learn?” asks actress Dalia.
“How to realise our dreams,” someone shouts from the crowd.
The girls are quick to identify the social issues hinted at in the performance, and how it relates to their own lives. In groups, the girls then start to act out creative scenarios of their own.
Reem, 13, enjoyed the show. “They really spoke our language,” she says.
Dahani Sirhi, 15, agrees. “The play and this drama activity were great, because it was about real life,” she says. This is her second year taking part in UNRWA’s summer programme.
“The play was so close to my own experience, it really represented me,” she says.
“Sometimes as girls and young people, we feel that we can’t say some things out loud.
“But these kinds of activities show us that it’s not wrong to dream, and to try to accomplish things.”
Theatre Day Productions wants drama, theatre, and creative activities to be a regular part of the lives of young people in Palestine so that kids can find their individual voices, their sense of self, and discover their creative life.
To find out more, visit the group’s website.
More about UNRWA in Gaza