Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 08.06.2006:
Ashtar for Theatre Productions and Training is a non-profit organization founded in Jerusalem in 1991. The first theatre training company in Palestine, Ashtar has maintained a consistent set of aims. It seeks to confront and challenge every aspect of Palestinian society, constantly encouraging people, especially youth, to question all aspects of their daily life. By adopting creative methods that inspire audiences to ?listen as they hear, to contemplate as they see, to imagine as they reflect?? it is Ashtar?s aim to make theatre an integral part of Palestinian society.
An innovative theatre company continually researching and experimenting with different artistic tools and techniques, Ashtar?s work falls into two main categories: the provision of drama training courses and the production of theatrical performances.
More than 25,000 students in some 50 private, governmental and UNRWA schools were reached since the programme began in 2002. These sessions provide an opportunity for the youth to release some of their stored-up tension and frustration in a safe and supportive environment, and give voice to their justified anger over the crimes committed against them, individually and collectively.
Regular drama clubs and workshops are run from Ashtar?s theatre and in local schools as an extra-curricular activity. The drama clubs are always very much in demand and despite the financial and logistical difficulties arising from life under occupation, are always well attended. The courses usually culminate in a theatrical production by the students.
The on-going Abu Shaker series is an annual production rooted in the participative and behaviour-transforming techniques of Forum Theatre (developed from Brazilian director Augusto Boal?s universally acclaimed ?Theatre of the Oppressed?). Each year the production addresses a different topical issue, from child labour and early marriage to incest and collaboration. This year?s play focuses on violence in schools, physical, verbal and psychological. More than 60 performances were conducted in the West Bank and in Jordan.
Ashtar?s experimental theatre programme presents a seasonal theatre production. This constitutes an open workshop for the active participation of the organization?s members, in addition to joint experiments and experiences with other theatres. Such interaction allows finding common grounds for debate and a collective search for suggestions and answers. This year’s performance, “The Earth Gods,” recently completed a regional tour; an international tour is planned during 2004.
Ashtar’s Latest Publication
Ashtar has recently published a book on its training system for theatre devotees, both novices and those with more experience.
Ashtar Theatre Training System Textbook by Edward Muallem & Iman Aoun contains exercises that start at the very basic level because they intend to obliterate all past experiences. The book embodies the result of many diverse experiences, both scientific and practical. It does not impose one specific method and remains conscious in its acceptance of all trends and schools which formed the tributaries of the basic theatre movement, without isolating itself into one particular trend. It contains a wealth of information for whoever uses it, whether a trainee or a trainer. A lot of effort was invested in preparing and organizing the material of the book, which is probably the only one of its kind in Arabic.
To obtain a copy of the book, contact Ashtar at 02-2980037 or visit
Joviana E. Stephan Administrative Director