8Nov
rlevitow November 8, 2007 No Comments

Bond St. + Girls Theatre Group in Afghanistan

Bond Street Theatre Working with All-Girls Theatre Group in Afghanistan

A daring group of teenage girls are breaking taboos about women on stage.  
Bond Street Theatre of New York joins them to introduce new theatre techniques.

New York October 16, 2007 – Bond Street Theatre travels to Kunduz, Afghanistan, October 28 – November 28 to work with the Mediothek Girls Theatre Group, a self-organized group of girls, ages fourteen to eighteen, led by their nineteen year-old director.  Bond Street Theatre brings new and innovative theatre techniques for the girls who have, so far, little formal performance training.  

Bond Street Theatre’s work in Afghanistan began in the refugee areas in Pakistan following September 11th.  Since that time, the group has traveled to Afghanistan many times, performing in orphanages, schools and refugee camps, conducting workshops, collaborating with local theatre artists, and providing teacher training.

The US group first met the newly formed Mediothek Girls Theatre Group at the Kabul International Theatre Festival in 2005 where they and Bond Street Theatre were both presenting performances. Bond Street Theatre’s production, Beyond the Mirror, created with Exile Theatre of Kabul, demonstrated physical and visual techniques not yet seen in Afghanistan theatre and won first prize in the Festival.  The Mediothek Girls Theatre approached Bond Street and they have been corresponding ever since.

Women and the performing arts have both been struggling to reassert themselves since the fall of the Taliban. The success of the girls’ group is remarkable considering the ongoing objection to women appearing in public roles and, even more vigorously, to women in on-stage performances.  The actresses of the theatre group risk their own physical safety by engaging in theatre.  The Bond Street Theatre ensemble is determined to help the girls develop their theatrical vocabulary and market their beautiful, original productions.

Bibimah Arabzada, director of the young group, wrote to the US company: “We are surprised to hear that you are coming from such a great distance to help our professional training, as our youth are in soul needing such training and are deprived of such skills.”    

The group was founded in 2003 by Naseeba Holgar who was then just fifteen.  Now Naseeba is studying law at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif and hoping that the group she founded will continue to grow under the leadership of Bibimah.  

The entire group is enthusiastic about the Bond Street Theatre visit, writing, “everything you want to teach us will be new because we haven’t had any workshops in theatre.”  Naseeba has been the group’s sole trainer, relying on her own innate theatrical instincts to guide her.  Nonetheless, the group’s work is outstanding and was an immediate hit at the Kabul International Theatre Festival.  

Three lead actors from Bond Street Theatre will give the girls intensive training in physical, visual, and musical theatre techniques – from puppetry to pantomime, from characterization to commedia dell-arte.    
In addition to working with the girls’ group at Mediothek, the Bond Street actor-educators will give theatre-based workshops for their women’s and youth groups.  These workshops are aimed at improving presentation skills, leadership, imagination, self-expression, and self-confidence.  Programs for children also focus on cooperation and team-building as a means to resolving conflict.  

To insure the sustainability of their work, the company also trains teachers, health workers, local artists, and other social workers in their theatre-based techniques for conflict resolution, social improvement, and civic advancement.  

Bond Street’s decades of fieldwork experience has proven immensely successful in many environments and locations, including India, Pakistan, Israel, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, China, and elsewhere.  
 
Mediothek, an Afghan-German organization founded in 2003, is devoted to rebuilding Afghan society destroyed by decades of war.  Mediothek’s projects are based on the premise that “peace and democracy are complex cultural processes that do not end with elections and peace accords.”  

The project with the All-Girls Theatre Group is the first Mediothek–Bond Street Theatre partnership project.  Both groups share a dedication to the goal of peace-building through cultural programming, and both feature programs for children and youth in order to build the capacity of the next generations who are the future of our world.

Bond Street’s current project in Afghanistan is funded by the Riverside Church Sharing Fund in New York and a New Generation grant from the Theatre Communications Group

The Bond Street Theatre directors are available for interviews about their experiences using theatre as a means to improve the lives of people of all ages in difficult life situations.     
 
*****

Bond Street Theatre
2 Bond Street. New York, NY 10012  USA 
tel: 212-254-4614,  fax: 212-460-9378   www.bondst.org

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