Why do we learn foreign languages? Well, one good reason, perhaps the single most important one, is so that we might more easily be able to tell our story and our stories to the world. And this is important of course because ultimately we want people to understand us, to know who we are and how we live. This point was really brought home to me as the 180 plays started to come in for this year’s remote theatre competition for Palestinian children.
The vast majority of the plays arrived during the last two days before the deadline (many in the last few hours!), and we suddenly needed to find a much larger panel of judges than last year. We were lucky to be able to amass a team of 77 people in 23 different countries around the world; teachers of English, drama teachers, educational drama specialists, actors, storytellers, playwrights, directors, authors and university lecturers and students. They are people who write plays and act in them or direct them, but also people who just appreciate good theatre.
So massive congratulations to every single student, teacher and school in Palestine who took part in the competition by submitting a play. You are all winners! Together you have already told your stories of what it is to be a young person in Palestine to the judges, and these stories will be told again to many, many more people around the world when the videos eventually go public on our youtube channel. Here are some general comments from a few of the judges about the experience of watching your plays. They’d like me to pass them on to you all.
“Thanks again for letting me have the opportunity to look at another tranche of videos. As I’m sure you do, I get quite emotionally overcome watching these brilliant, talented young people and thinking of the danger and deprivation that they have to endure. Quite apart from anything else, I think these films need to be shown to an international audience so people can see what it means to be a child in Palestine”
“That was difficult… so much talent, strong messages, deeply portrayed emotions, imaginative use of costume and scenery, well framed action, strong symbolism, sensitive use of music, passion and belief, taking on and tackling ‘big issues’, expressing mature themes with feelings. It’s quite overwhelming to see young people looking at such deep issues and finding ways of expressing them with heart and soul. Power to you all! Thank you for opening many windows in my life…”
“Once again thank you for asking me to watch these short plays, and for reminding me how powerful drama and telling stories in different ways can be. It was wonderful to see such a range, and I do so wish I could show them to my own students, and even do this kind of thing where I work. What a stunning level of English these young people have!”
“Thanks very much for inviting us to take part in judging these very powerful plays. A real privilege – we were very moved. Please tell all the young actors and their teachers how much we enjoyed seeing them down here on the other side of the world!”
“I’m so glad to see so many talented young children and also happy to know that they had the opportunity to learn through making a play, to reflect upon their own reality, to interact with each other and through the camera, to use their creativity and imagination. Congratulations to you all!!!”
“Thank you to all the young people for the immense privilege of watching and judging their plays. One criteria for assessing theatre is does the play help us understand the experience of being human. Well together they all do this, tremendously”
We will also be providing specific feedback, based on the judges comments by email to every single play, but please bear with us on this. With 180 plays it’s going to take a while, but we’ll do it as quickly as we can.
I would also like to personally thank and congratulate all participants too for throwing yourselves into, what I believe is, the first Remote Theatre competition to take place anywhere in the world. Doing the competition as Remote Theatre (one take only with a fixed camera position, and no editing) has levelled the playing field a little bit because it means that the actors have to depend much more on their abilities to use English and on their acting skills, rather than on the techniques of the film maker. It’s more challenging but better for English language development, and I’m so pleased to see that you’ve risen to the challenge very well with creativity, commitment and sheer hard work.
Another reason for doing the competition in this way is so that you have some ready made remote theatre pieces which can be performed through zoom at schools, or in theatres, or at conferences around the world. And we will do everything we can to enable this to happen as much as possible, because then, if you perform your plays with clarity and from the heart, and you do it in a way that helps us to see that it could be us in your story, then what may happen is that your story becomes our story. And this really is what our work in the Hands Up Project is all about.
Tomorrow on this blog we will be announcing the names of the 18 plays which have been chosen by the judges as the finalists in this year’s competition.