New York, NY, March 15, 2011 – Bond Street Theatre returns to Afghanistan this month to help revitalize Afghanistan's theatrical arts, and promote the use of theatre to bring information on health, civic rights, and other issues to areas of high illiteracy (90% for women, 63% for men, UN Report).
The 18-month Theatre for Social Development Project, supported by the US Embassy in Afghanistan and the US Institute for Peace, involves month-long training sessions with four select theatre groups in Herat, Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar in creative and administrative skills. The goal is to build the capacity of local theatre organizations to provide educational services on an ongoing basis to their communities, and carry information to isolated areas, with special focus on women and children.
The gap in access to information is particularly acute in poor and rural communities, and among women who are more apt to be illiterate and isolated from news. Theatre is a lively and effective means to present information in an understandable visual and verbal manner.
"If you want to get information to an area of high illiteracy, you can't hand out a flyer," explains Artistic Director Joanna Sherman when asked about the use of theater in communities in crisis.
"If a health organization plans to bring polio vaccines to a rural community, they may have to first dispel local fears about foreign medicine. A local theatre group can quickly create a show that explains the issue. Then when the medical team arrives, the village is prepared."
To ensure each theatre company's sustainability, the program also partners the groups with governmental and non-governmental organizations in need of their services.
The Bond Street Theatre team – Joanna Sherman, Michael McGuigan, and Anna Zastrow – departs March 27 to begin work with Simorgh Theatre in Herat and returns May 9th.
Having conducted arts-based programs in Afghanistan since 2003, the New York-based theatre company stands out amidst the country's most committed cultural ambassadors.
The Theatre for Social Development program will bring mobile theatre performances to some of Afghanistan's most isolated regions, and provide creative and motivational training for women and youth, and a platform for public understanding of crucial social issues.
The theatre arts also serve as an effective means to ease the traumatic effects of war and poverty by providing a voice to the voiceless, a safe space to explore the issues, and the mouthpiece to share information and personal stories. Programs that stimulate creative problem solving and self-expression are scarce at a time when the country most needs a visionary new generation.
Integral to the project, Bond Street Theatre is creating a Training Manual to be published in 2012 that will offer artists and aid organizations a wide range of theatre-based methods applicable to development programs.
This program is made possible by a generous grant from the US Embassy in Afghanistan (Department of State) and the United States Institute for Peace, an organization dedicated to preventing and ending international conflict and promoting the field of peacebuilding.
From their first trip, Bond Street Theatre has formed a unique, thriving, artistic-humanitarian relationship with Afghanistan. In light o
f America's continued involvement in the country's future, this New York-based theatre company stands tall amidst the most committed cultural ambassadors.