Act to Change
Syrian Refugee Workshops
Act to Change is a theatre project that is specifically designed for displaced populations, such as recent immigrants and refugees. It teaches performance skills and gives tools to its participants to critically reflect on their circumstances and communicate their needs to the world. The participants work together on creating a piece of theatre that presupposes a dialogue with their audience. Using devised theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed* techniques, the participants will not merely present a piece of theatre reflecting their life questions, struggles, and understandings, but will also invite their audiences to step in their shoes by taking on some of the roles and to collectively discuss possible answers and solutions. Ultimately, Act to Change helps the participants find and see compromise while adjusting to new realities and builds stronger communities by unearthing the obstacles faced by refugees in a compassionate and empathetic way.
Our first invitation for Act to Change is from Alzaatari Camp, which is a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. It was established in 2012 near Almafraq city in Jordan and houses over 150,000 refugees who have come from Damascus, Hamah and Alquniterah in Syria. The formerly barren desert is crowded with acres of white tents, makeshift shops line a “main street” and sports fields and schools are available for children. But many families feel trapped, crowded, and even farther from any sense of home. Refugees find shelter wherever they can.
Our project, Act to Change will train the participants how to use Theatre of the Oppressed strategies to recognize oppression and locate tools to react to it non-violently, while creating a wider dialogue with the local and international community; the workshops will also focus on how to reintegrate into new communities following displacement forced by war.
Since its inception, Theatre of the Oppressed has been widely and successfully used in first and third world countries, in educational, social, and political contexts such as civil unrest, social inequality, post-civil war reconciliation, cultural integration, domestic violence, engagement and emotional intelligence development in secondary education, and many more.
The immediate beneficiaries would number approximately 30 participants per camp. However, the ripple effect would impact many more, as these participants will share the work and strategies within their community. We are currently grant writing, coordinating with oversea partners and strategizing.
*Augusto Boal, the creator of Theatre of the Oppressed, started the work to offer oppressed populations to learn how to recognize, confront, and overcome their oppressions through creating malleable theatrical scenarios allowing for reflection, choice, and direct action. Boal’s work is based on Freirean principle’s (utilized throughout education and resistance in the 1960s and 1970s) and is well suited for these communities:. “It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection.” (Freire 52). Boal’s work specifically points out that Theatre of the Oppressed “focuses on the action itself: the spectactor delegates no power to the character (or actor) either to act or to think in his place; on the contrary, he himself assumes the protagonist role, changes the dramatic action, tries out solutions, discusses plans for change – in short, trains him for real action…No matter that the action is fictional; what matters is that it is action!” (122) Since its inception, Theatre of the Oppressed has been widely and successfully used in first and third world countries, in educational, social, and political contexts such as civil unrest, social inequality, post-civil war reconciliation, cultural integration, domestic violence, engagement and emotional intelligence development in secondary education, and many more.