Thursday, May 20, 2010

Youth Theatre at Balata Refugee Camp

I have been spending time in the Balata refuge camp, thinking that this might be someplace where I will focus my research. Today, I was invited to observe a youth theatre group at the Youth Centre, which was full of extremely energetic adolescents, who were physically incapable of stillness. They had 15 minutes to prepare a short performance about a problem facing the camp, coming up with the script, dialogue, and props themselves. They closed the curtains and spent the whole time in a frantic racket preparing, while every few minutes one of them would poke his or head out of the curtain with a big smile and a wave. The performance was an extremely violent depiction of IDF soldiers opening fire on a school. There was much shooting, tear gas, death, and destruction as the children acted out the lengthy skit. The audience - consisting of the group moderator, his humourless partner, and me - all had our gaping mouths covered with our hands, trying to hide our discomfort and deciding how best to discuss this

with the children after. After a debriefing with the children, they decided to perform a reprisal in which the soldiers were much less violent, and instead formed a barrier of interlinking arms across the stage not allowing the other children to pass from one side to another. This reiteration illustrated the current occupation in a very poignant way, as mobility is greatly restricted; however, the first performance was not forgotten.

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