Drama is not just a tool. It’s the perfect way to help the students dig deep inside themselves to identify their identities, set up their goals in life and have dreams . I was inspired by this and by the idea of remote theatre (performing plays through simple video-conferencing tools to other parts of the world). So I decided to establish a drama club at my UNRWA school in Gaza and here I developed my own framework for student created plays which I call ‘Remote your story’. I also encouraged them to perform their plays remotely so that their voices may be heard loudly and clearly in the outside world. The framework works like this:
1.The students write their own short stories in English outside of class time as a kind of homework.
2. They come to class with these stories and I divide them into groups, each with a group leader. Their task at this stage is to agree on the best story to be converted into a play later.
3.The students are then given a script as a model to imitate. They then start converting their own story into a script. The script could be about many different topics; their loved ones , what it feels like to be a refugee , the rights of women etc.
4. The editing and reformulation stage: Now, each group has to submit their own script to me to help them with the language. I don’t make any changes in their ideas but just make the script more intelligible or sophisticated in terms of the language.
5. Physicalization and Rehearsal stage : At this stage , I ask each group leader to establish a timetable of training sessions with the group members .This leader has to give each member a role in the play (including herself) and start rehearsing the lines.
6. Performing the plays remotely to the outer world. This is the last stage where we have a linkup with one of the hands up remote volunteers to perform the plays. We receive feedback and the students take this feedback into account and try to improve their performance afterwards.
So now we have two brilliant students in my drama club talking about this experience . Over to you Haya and Nour ,
Haya says ,
With all happiness and pride, I would like to talk about my experience in our drama club in Gaza- the Hands Up Project. It all started two years ago when we started our online sessions with Mr Nick Bilbrough . We were full of joy and pride that our voices could be heard in the other part of the world .However , it is not only about learning the language through this online sessions , but also about being ourselves through creating plays and performing them to the hands up volunteer through zoom . It was really a fruitful experience that has affected me as a student and a person particularly in the last play I performed called “Oh My Home”. It was the production of a very rich framework that’s developed by our teacher , Haneen Jadallah employing the whole idea of remote theatre . This play started with the an international idea that is “ what does it feel line if you are a refugee “ .Then the stages went as follow :
- We first had a meeting with a lot of stories and we have decided to write about Nour’s story that was inspired by the picture of this Syrian child who sank in the sea while his family were escaping by the sea to find another place where they can have a decent life.
- Nour was the main writer of the play and we helped her in arranging the ideas and putting all together. It was really a perfect stage to widen my words capacity and learn new words. And most importantly, to put these words in a template of a conversation as a step to write the script. In this stage, I had a special pleasure because we had a very nice discussion as well as respect, care and cooperation. when we had our script ready, we gave it to the teacher for editing and reformulation, then after a couple of days, we had it back and we started to learn the lines and notice the changes where masses of learning happened at this point.
3.We worked as a team, having Nour as our leader. We divided the rules among ourselves and we started our training sessions. we were spending half an hour every day to rehearse it and to develop our performance. It is a great chance that helps us break the barriers of fear, raise self-confidence and grant us the courage to speak with a beautiful accent. After days and nights of hard-working, we performed it to Peter-our volunteer to receive feedback and then we took this to develop our performance to submit it for the playwright competition. Knowing that we are among the winners is indescribable and nothing in life fills my heart with joy as this .
I think taking part in this fantastic project is the highlight of my life . It gave me the opportunity to perform our previous play “ The shadow girl “ at Al –Hakawati theatre in Jerusalem and I am looking forward to performing this soon again .Now , I know that I have a dream to be a volunteer in the hands up project one day.
Nour says ,
During these bad situations that happened and are still happening since the first moment of 2020 all over the world .Lately , this Covid 19 started to spread in Gaza to add insult to the injury .People in Gaza have been under unfair blockade for a long time and they have been suffering from powercut , lack of clean water and regular bombings during the last two weeks . In spite of all of these unbearable events, there is a reason to optimistic because there is “drama”. So drama is the only way to escape from this sad reality to make our own world that is full of peace and colour it with our favorite colours .Here , I would like to talk about my own experience of being a member in drama club in Gaza for two years .And , particularly being the main writer and group leader of the play” Oh my home” .
We chose the idea for this play that is “ the meaning of being a refugee “ because we Palestinians know the best the meaning of this word as we are refugees on our homeland. It is what means to you to be homeless and far away from your land. It is not only about being expelled from your homeland because of the occupation, but also being expelled by the hardship of life . It’s about a child without a childhood and a youth without any hope in life ,it’s about being in a piece of land without having anything really to pull you to stay . So ,we noticed how people in a lot of countries started to escape illegally through the sea to a place where they can live a good life like humanbeings . Actually , we were inspired by this idea and by the picture of this Syrian boy who sank and was found dead at the shore . Me and my group decided to write together about this idea and we gave the story a name titled “oh my home “ . The group consisted of 5 girls ( including me as their leader ) .I was the main writer and they helped me.
Then , we converted it into a kind of script following the model that the teacher gave us ( the characters and the directions etc.. ). We learnt the value of respecting others thoughts and the norm of listening to each other attentively. After that , we handed the script in to Miss Haneen – our teacher to have a look at it for editing and reformulations . Then , she gave it back to us to notice the changes about the language intelligibility and the style of the script . We held a meeting without the teacher to agree on the timetable for everyday training sessions. Nothing could be more beautiful than this. We discovered our talents while performing the scripts. We discovered that we had a memory in every single bit of our bodies and we came up with the idea that the team spirit is just perfect to achieve our goals in life.
What I like about remote theatre is that you started with a kind of performance and you ended up with a different version . That’s exactly what happened in “ Oh, my home “ , because of the ongoing feedback we were receiving from each other throughout the whole training , from our teacher and from Peter Oswald –our Hands up volunteer .
Hearing that your efforts had paid off and you won is something exceptional in life . I was full of joy when we were among the winners and my eyes were full of tears because the first dream of my life was come true . I am looking forward to performing it live in Jerusalem soon . Thank you Mr Nick and all the team in the hands up project for granting us this opportunity to tell our stories to the world . You are truly a source of inspiration to all of us .