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20 January, 2011

A new experience at Bethlehem University: Theatre Forum on Human Rights

Human rightsOn November 25th, three Bethlehem University French classes of performed their first forum theatre play. The “forum theatre,” originally called by its creator, Augusto Boal, The Theatre of the Oppressed, as it allows actors to act out ways of overcoming obstacles in their lives.

It is a theatre style that is based on interactive participation, whereby the actors act out short stories they have actually experienced in the past. After a first performance of such a play, the performance is repeated, and the spectators can intervene directly on stage and replace one of the actors or propose new ideas, which alters the initial plot of the play and its outcome while whilst allowing discussions of the results and further possibilities. This kind of play acting is an exercise in self empowerment and development of the ability to look at obstacles in creative ways and arrive at alternative conclusions or even solutions, to a problem.

Human rightsThis project was born through the initiative of the two French teachers of Bethlehem University, Virginie Lucas and Aline Rapp, who wanted to organize a theme week centering on Human Rights, in three of their classes. Two French practioners; Marjorie Neau, professional comedian from Lille, France and Sandrine Lucas, a lawyer from Pau, France, were approached for suggestions on a project that would allow the students to be creative. The proposed project was the "forum theatre", which combines the specializations of the two practioners; human rights and theatre.

From Monday through Wednesday, the teachers and their guest speakers selected three themes that had significance to the students and would lead to interesting debates. They then assigned each class a theme centering around divisions of human rights law; family law, working law and movement freedom. According to the themes, the students wrote stories narrating personal experiences. Afterwards, Marjorie Neau wrote and directed the plays according to the students' stories while Ms. Lucas injected fundamental concepts of human rights into the resulting plays. The four teachers were delighted to witness the students enthusiasm for this interactive play acting, noting their spontanious and energetic participation in the theatre exercises.

The stories were finally acted out on Thursday in front of the other classes. After each scene, the audience was then allowed to suggest alternative actions the protagonists could have taken and discuss the potential results. Ms. Lucas helped direct the students' discussions, giving guidance and advise throughout, according to human rights principles. She later spoke to them about human rights in the Palestinian Territories and ways that students and locals could pursue them. It is an important goal at Bethlehem University to foster creative and forward thinking in students that will allow them to seek out and achieve human rights and development in Palestine.

Considering the success of this project, we all hope to have the opportunity to do it again.

We warmly thank Mrs. Chantal Juge, from the French Consulate in Jerusalem, for her presence as well as that of Mr. Hazem Najjar, Head of the English Department of Bethlehem University, during the final presentation.

-The team of the Theatre Forum

Cliquez ici pour la version française


Bethlehem University Foundation
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Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
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Bethlehem, Palestine