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May 12, 2010

Peace Political Theater Performance Outside Nativity Church

Palestinians and Germans Meet Mutual Challenges With Theater

NativityDuring the week of April 13th  through April 20th ,  9 actors and 2 coaches of the German Theater group of the Allerweltshaus in Cologne had a fruitful workshop with the Drama Society at Bethlehem University.

In the first joint meetings, the director of Bethlehem University’s Drama Society, Dr. Hala Al-Yamani, and Paco Mirallas, director of the German street theater group, formed one single group out of the two rather than two different groups of actors. Thereafter, the actors started to work on a Performance discussing peace political themes such as the protection of nature, violence in the society, and violence of an occupying force. For the participants of the workshop, it was particularly important to present the themes in a way that attracts a Palestinian audience, but at the same time stands in our Globe.

NativityIntensive theatre training was not limited to campus, the group joint trips to Palestinian cities. In Ramallah and in the villages close to Bethlehem, the German participants had a first hand experience of how it is to live in the West Bank.

Four performances of the short jointly developed piece were the result of the workshop. Two of them were presented on the University’s campus. The third performance challenged the actors to discuss social and political issues in the Aida Refugee Camp before the great finale took place outside the Nativity Church.

NativityDuring the play, we see two individuals who are too busy with their daily work and themselves, particularly checking emails that they do not realize violence, destruction of the environment, suppression and exploitation that happen before them. When they realize what is going on, they interfere to stop the sufferance.

After the performances, the actors approached the spectators to talk with them about the impressions while watching the piece and their experiences. The reactions were different but very positive. A student of Bethlehem University is impressed how much the performed problems reflect her real life. “Unfortunately we experience here things like this very often,” The actress from Germany replies “not exactly like this, but in a way we have similar difficulties in Germany.”

NativityThe performances on the streets of the Arabic Bethlehem mean to Mr. Mirallas a dream comes true, “for sure there are many places around the world where it is very exciting to play street theater, but Bethlehem is just very special!”

Mr. Mirallas recalls the experience of the week together, “there are many differences between us, and they are very interesting. But there certainly is a majority of similarities that connect us. During this week of the theater workshop we really grew together to become one group.”

Dr. Al-Yamani describes the reactions of the children of the refugee camp, “with their eyes, they followed every single action of the actors,” she said, “from their reactions and conversations it becomes obvious that they understood what we displayed.” she added.

NativityOn the last evening together Br. Robert Smith, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bethlehem University, handed out certificates for the successful participants in this workshop. In his short note, he emphasized the special value of cultural exchange between Palestinians and Germans, “it helps students from different backgrounds enriches their understanding of each others cultures.”

This joint workshop was the second meeting of the two theater groups. During the Fall Semester 2009, the Palestinian group was invited by AGEH (German Catholic Development Cooperation) and the Ministry of generations, families, women and integration of the German North Rhine Westphalia to come to Cologne. Here they preformed during the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of AGEH a Palestinian Theater play expressing the right of women to actively participate in politics. The recent return visit was also supported by the Ministry.

NativitySoon there will be a publication with a DVD about the performances.

Bethlehem University wishes to thank Dr. Inge Tiemann, AGEH-sponsored Visiting Consultant for Participatory Learning at the University, for the coordination this workshop. “We hope that this Exchange Program can be continued in the coming years and continue developing,” Dr. Tiemann commented.

For more pictures click here


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine