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  Artistic collaboration in INDIA
« on: November 09, 2006, 03:14:39 PM » by bond street theatre
this is a press release from our newest project in process:

From Afghanistan to India –
Bond Street Theatre and Exile Theatre begin new theatre project

New York, New York October 17, 2006—New York City’s Bond Street Theatre and Exile Theatre of Kabul, Afghanistan, continue their five-year relationship with a new project in India.  The two companies are bringing their unique partnership of performance and theatre-based education to Muslim youth in India over the next two years.

The two groups met in the Afghan refugee camps in northern Pakistan shortly after September 11th and have continued their creative partnership ever since. Together, the companies created a theatre production depicting true stories from Afghan life during wartime that toured in Afghanistan, Japan and the USA, and brought performances for children to orphanages and schools in rural areas of Afghanistan.

The two groups are seeing the advantages of extending their work to India where they can collaborate with Indian theatre artists and witness a variety of social theatre programs in action.

The arts exchange will bring interactive theatre programs to children in some of the most poverty-stricken regions of India, and provide arts-based educational training for teachers, and programs for students in the Universities.  A US-Afghan team is seen as quite unique in India, and a tri-country collaboration will increase the learning opportunities for all participants.

“It’s serendipitous turn of events really,” said Joanna Sherman, Bond Street Theatre’s Artistic Director.  “We had organized a multi-city project introducing theatre as a teaching tool for educators in Afghanistan.  Now things have become too dangerous there to travel freely.”

India and Afghanistan are two cultural extremes.  Afghanistan, hindered by years of war and severe artistic censorship under the Taliban, is just beginning to rediscover its cultural identity and still facing resistance, especially for women in the performing arts.  India has thriving theatre traditions and strong community support for the performing arts. In addition, the arts are widely used in education, communication, and community development, very new practices in Afghanistan.

The program features theatre-based exercises that improve learning abilities in children, boost self-confidence, develop leadership and communication skills, foster teamwork, stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving abilities, and encourage imagination and self-expression.  Training teachers in these techniques is always a component of their programs.

The American and Afghan groups will meet with Indian theatre companies who are doing educational outreach in a variety of communities so that all groups can share the theatrical techniques that they have found most effective.  The focus will be on Muslim communities in India that most closely duplicate the cultural mores in Afghanistan.

Bond Street Theatre and Exile Theatre look at the India-Afghanistan-US tri-country exchange as part of a comprehensive research plan and important step toward developing a model training workbook for use in countries that have certain cultural restrictions and for educators that work with disadvantaged youth or in post-war environments.

Bond Street Theatre and Exile Theatre’s long-term goal is to introduce culturally sensitive theatre-based education programs into Afghan schools, especially targeting girls who have few outlets for performance and other physical creative expression.

The theatre arts are especially effective for young people of both genders in that they offer a safe environment for addressing problems, and are uplifting and empowering.  The project specifically looks at conflict-resolution strategies that can be adapted to the situations in each of the three countries.

For the Afghan artists, in the long run, the project will help to revitalize Afghanistan’s own theatrical traditions of storytelling in poetry, prose and song, oral traditions that may be lost without a renewed country-wide appreciation of the expressive arts.

Since 2002, Bond Street and Exile Theatre have reached more than 25,000 children and adults in Kabul and in rural villages of northern Afghanistan with their performances and workshops.  Live performance is a novelty in most areas of the country.  People walked up to 15 miles to see their shows in the most rural regions.

“People told us, ‘My face hurts from smiling because we never laugh,’” said Ms. Sherman.  “That truly touched us.  Besides all the practical applications for theatre, sometimes you just want to give people a good laugh.”

An engaging program such as this goes a long way in spreading good will.  The goal of the joint US-Afghan-India project is to exemplify through live, interactive theatre how mutual understanding and cooperation can be gained through creative exchange.

The US-Afghan-India exchange project is supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State.

Bond Street Theatre’s theatre projects around the world have been featured on CNN and National Public Radio, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers and arts magazines, with international features on Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

* * *

Bond Street Theatre
2 Bond Street
New York, NY  10012
(212) 254-4614

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