Theatre For Everybody and GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM who are they and what is it

THEATRE FOR EVERYBODY

Jamal Al Rozzi and Hossam Madhoun are the Directors of Theatre for Everybody with whom Az Theatre have a ten-year (2009-2019) cultural exchange partnership.  The current phase involves working with a group of 18-30 year olds in Gaza on drama and creative writing and the production of an original contemporary stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Plus a workshop in London of international artists, including Jamal and Hossam.  This will be based on the extract from the meditation by John Donne that begins: ‘No man is an island’ so we are calling this the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop. (more about this below)

What is GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM?

Our exchange partnership is called GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM. It developed from Az Theatre’s WAR STORIES project which worked with companies from Algeria, Palestine, Serbia, Kosovo, Italy and the UK and at theatre festivals in Romania and Turkey from 2002 to 2007, supported by the European Cultural Foundation and the Arts Council England.

It set out to create cultural exchange between artists and audiences in Gaza and London, to break down isolation and cultivate solidarity and to do so through creative work.  It has created a model of participatory production and has refused to seek support from any government organisation.

GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM has generated work in four phases since 2009: GAZA GUERNICA, GAZA: BREATHING SPACE, GAZA OPENING SIGNS and WAR & PEACE: GAZA (PALESTINE)/LONDON (UK).  It has organised numerous public events in the UK some of which have connected live with Gaza through Skype.

It has been supported by financial contributions from 100s of individuals and over 50 UK theatre artists (including Harriet Walter, David Calder, Maggie Steed, Tara Fitzgerald, David Lan, Jennie Stoller, Philip Arditti, Deborah Findlay, Caryl Churchill, Hassan Abdulrazzak and many more) have made creative contributions and appeared in person at our events that have attracted 100s and 100s of audience members.  It has worked with over a hundred young people in Gaza and has explored theatre for those with hearing disability there and in London as well as linking theatre talent in both places.

It has engaged with London venues: Rich Mix, Soho Theatre and the Globe Theatre and has received support from International Committee for Artists Freedom, International Performers Aid Trust, British Shalom Salaam Trust,  Street Theatre Workshop. It has worked alongside Culture and Conflict, the Shake! Community from Platform Arts.

We are looking for a group of young people here in the UK to make an exchange with the young people there who have come together around and activist journalist project: We Are Not Numbers.  And we are looking for funds to do the War and Peace production and the NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop

A six-day workshop bringing together international stage artists with members of the Theatre for Everybody group from Gaza.

This is a key stage in the ten-year GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project (2009-2019), a cultural exchange partnership between Az Theatre London and Theatre for Everybody Gaza.

The NO (HU)MAN IS AN ISLAND workshop is planned to happen in London in January 2017 and will offer audiences one or two presentations of work created and devised by the 10 participants directed by Jonathan Chadwick.

The aims of the workshop will be to:

Provide a creative interaction for the artists from Gaza, to meet and work with artists from the UK and other regions
Create as wide an access for audiences in the UK to this major international cultural exchange project.
Provide the GAZA DRAMA LONG TERM project partners with the opportunity to develop plans for the closing phase of the project within an inspirational context.
Act as the central event for the artists from Gaza to meet other groups and individuals who have supported the work (International Committee for Artists Freedom, British Shalom Salaam Trust, International Performers Aid Trust)
Work with other institutions and organisations (e.g. University of Manchester IN PLACE OF WAR project, University of Coventry Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, British Actors Equity, British Arab Centre) to offer a platform for them to share experiences of working, living and creating theatre in Gaza.

UNFORESEEN news 19/10/2015

UNFORESEEN – WAR STORIES ENCORE – GAZA/LONDON is happening at Rich Mix London on Sunday 24th January.  Read more about this event: unforeseen2

We are building the company of actors who will take part.  We are inviting Arthur Nazaryan from Yerevan, Armenia and Reyhan Ozdilek from Istanbul, Turkey to join us, both of whom Jonathan Chadwick worked with earlier in the year in Istanbul.  The following UK-based artists will join us (subject to availability):  Harriet Walter, Joe Kloska, Nahar Ramadan, Zaydun Khalaf, Tom Chadwick.

Jonathan Chadwick will be attending the Corner in the World Festival in Istanbul between 23rd October and 28th October to link up with Turkish and Syrian artists who worked on the Armenian-Turkish partnership project, THE BRIDGE, earlier in the year.

 

Eid in Gaza, this year and last year 23/07/2015

Message from Hossam in Gaza 23/07/2015

Eid this year and last year

I am still alive, my wife and my daughter too!
1.8 million are still alive after the 2014 war.
Only 2174 are not alive any more.
1.8 million Gazans are celebrating the feast of Eid

As in all other places the feast in Gaza has its own rituals.
Children get new clothes, women cook Ka’ak, special sweets made only for the feast, men will visit their family home, their sisters, aunts, uncles and other family member who live in other houses.

Children wake up early, wash, put on new clothes and approach their father to receive some money  – we call it ‘Eddiyah’ – special pocket money given to the children during the feast,  normally much more than ordinary pocket money.

Women make sure that the home is clean and well-organized and that their children are well-dressed, then family members arrive. Children go with their full pockets to grocery shops to buy all the sweets they couldn’t buy during the year. They go to the fair, and to buy shawarma sandwiches that they usually couldn’t afford. They buy toys, run around and make a huge noise.

The streets are like a cinema location for a movie about children, colorful children, and the sound effect is children’s voices. Fun and laughter, arguments and shouting, smiles and involuntary dancing, the celebration of life as it should be ….

In 2014, all of this was stolen from us. All of this was stolen from our children.

Today, one year ago, I was at the bakery to buy bread. The bakery sells Ka’ak, and I bought some. When I arrived home, I did not get the usual welcome from my daughter. She went angrily to her room and, worried about her, I followed.
‘Celebrate the feast! How dare you! I’m not going to eat it. Don’t expect me to celebrate the feast while death is moving around us, above us, among us, underneath us, don’t!’ She closed her door.
To be honest, when I bought the Ka’ak I didn’t think for a moment about the feast or about the celebration. I just bought it like I might buy anything.
My daughter still doesn’t like to remember this incident.

Anyway, today is the feast. All the rituals are back.
Children are in the streets, except 530 children are not with them any more.
Women are waiting at home for their fathers and brothers, but 302 women are not among them any more.
Men are visiting their family members and relatives, but 1342 men are not there any more.
2174 beloved fathers, mothers, daughters and sons are not here any more.
In this feast, I am not happy. I find it very gloomy.
Yet, we made Ka’ak. It’s delicious, please come and have some. It’s great with tea, you’ll love it !

Ka'ak

Gaza Beach 16/07/2015

Gaza Beach 16th July 2015

We just received this message from Hossam Madhoun, Co-Director of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza.  With it we received this digital art by Basel Maqousi

children and war- basel

Az Theatre (London) and Theatre for Everybody (Gaza) are exchanging messages remembering the war last year.

Hossam’s message:

‘Are we going to spend the evening talking about the war?’ I said.

‘Do you have something else to talk about?’

‘I am going out’.

 

Walking on Gaza beach, the sky is so clear, millions of stars, some are shining more than the others.

I remember when my little brother, Mazen, died 35 years ago.

My grandmother told me that he went to the sky and he will always be shining up there. He was a year old, I was 9 years old and I believed her.

I used to go to the roof of our house and look at the sky, choose the most brilliant star and talk to it as if it was Mazen.

On the dark nights when I couldn’t see the stars I cried, believing that Mazen was upset with me. I complained to my grandmother and she used to tell me: ‘No, he’s not upset with you, he’s just playing with the other children, that’s all, he will come back tomorrow or the day after’. I believed her.

 

Looking at the sky, trying to count all those children who lost their lives during the last war. The shining stars are many more than 540. Surely it is the souls of the children who died in 2014 and in 2012 and 2008 and 2006 and 2000 and 1987 and 1982 and 1973 and 1967 and 1956 and 1948 …… Oh my God, how many children must die in order to light up our nights! We could save their souls and light candles instead.

My feet trudged on, the sandy beach enfolding every step, 15 minutes walking and I felt tired.

I sat down, in the silence, no-one nearby me, just me and the sea and the shining children in the sky, very calm, relaxed, and I was able to hear my heartbeats.

Not for long.

A family arrived and sat some meters away from me. They talked and I tried to ignore them. Not easy, they were loud.

 

‘We were 11 last year, may God bless their souls’, a woman said, ‘Ahmad would be in 8th grade now’

 

They are talking about another star, shall I tell this mother that her son is lighting our dark night? For a moment this naïve idea passes through my mind.

 

‘Mariam wanted a drink but the kitchen was bombed and all of us were hiding in the bedroom. Half of the house was destroyed. Ahmad was in his mother’s lap bleeding and we couldn’t do anything.’

‘Yes I remember’ …

‘Three days stuck in the bedroom, the bombing all around us, some very close, some not and we were all praying and waiting for the shell which would end our lives’

‘On the second day at sunset, Ahmad stopped breathing. His mother refused to put him aside, she kept holding him in her lap. She was not crying, none of us were crying. I believe we lost the ability to cry at that time’

‘Do you want some tea?’

‘Tea?’

‘Yes’

‘Please’

Come to our event at Rich Mix on Sunday 13th September 2015 SIMULTANEOUS – WAR & PEACE – GAZA/LONDON.  Find out more

Read Hossam’s message this time last year

All I’ve been trying to do is not remember the war! 12/07/2015

12/07/2015

A year ago in the opening days of the attack on Gaza Hossam sent us a dramatic dialogue of a family talking at home:

READ IT

In these days, yes these days, all I’ve been trying to do is not remember the war!

child in his mother lap - Basel

A family in Gaza talking at home on the anniversary of the war

A few days ago he sent, along with the digital montage art above by his artist friend Basel Maqousi, this new dramatic dialogue of a man and a woman and their daughter talking at home:

What days, may God never repeat them, the woman said

Yes. Amen, the man said

Do you remember?

Can I forget?

It’s terrible, everybody posts photos of killed children on facebook,

Don’t open facebook then.

All the TV channels are showing reports from the war.

Turn the TV off.

And on the radio!

You don’t need to listen to the radio.

 

I was trying to sleep as much as I could just to escape from my fear, the daughter said.

You were the brave one, my dear, the man said.

I was in a panic.

Sure, it is normal in war, we were all in a panic, my dear.

When Mum was going to the hospital to work, I was praying all the time until I saw her come back home again.

Your mother is very brave.

Yes.

 

Do you remember the night when they bombed Shujaiya?

I am trying to forget it!

That was one of the scariest nights.

Yes it was.

How many people took refuge at our building?

Many.

About 200 men, women and children, they arrived with nothing!

Yes, our neighbors were kind and generous.

How did the basement accommodate all of them?

Some were housed in their relative’s apartments.

And the food, it was Ramadan but all together we succeeded in feeding every one of them for 47 days.

Yes…

 

Are we going to spend the evening talking only about the war?

Do you have something else to talk about?

 

Are we going to survive the next war, the woman said

Why do you say that, there is no next war, the man said

Sure there is. What’s changed, have the Israelis fallen in love with us?

No, but the world will not allow another war in Gaza.

Really? Why? What has the world to do with us? You are naïve if you believe the world is busy thinking about us.

I mean, why there should be another war?

Same reasons as for the previous wars

What reasons?

I don’t know.

 

So there will be no war.

Yes, there will. And again, do you believe we will survive the next war?

 

War anniversary: a family in Gaza talk at home 10/07/2015

Here is the latest message form Hossam Madhoun reflecting on the war in Gaza a year ago.

On the anniversary of the war  9 July 2015

 

‘In these days, yes these days, all I’ve been trying to do was not remember the war!’

A family in Gaza talking at home:

What days, may God never repeat them, the woman said

Yes. Amen, the man said

Do you remember?

Can I forget?

It’s terrible, everybody posts photos of killed children on facebook,

Don’t open facebook then.

All the TV channels are showing reports from the war.

Turn the TV off.

And on the radio!

You don’t need to listen to the radio.

 

I was trying to sleep as much as I could just to escape from my fear, the daughter said.

You were the brave one, my dear, the man said.

I was in a panic.

Sure, it is normal in war, we were all in a panic, my dear.

When Mum was going to the hospital to work, I was praying all the time until I saw her come back home again.

Your mother is very brave.

Yes.

 

Do you remember the night when they bombed Shujaiya?

I am trying to forget it!

That was one of the scariest nights.

Yes it was.

How many people took refuge at our building?

Many.

About 200 men, women and children, they arrived with nothing!

Yes, our neighbors were kind and generous.

How did the basement accommodate all of them?

Some were housed in their relative’s apartments.

And the food, it was Ramadan but all together we succeeded in feeding every one of them for 47 days.

Yes…

Are we going to spend the evening talking only about the war?

Do you have something else to talk about?

 

Are we going to survive next war, the woman said

Why do you say that, there is no next war, the man said

Sure there is. What’s changed, have the Israelis fallen in love with us?

No, but the world will not allow another war in Gaza.

Really? Why? What has the world to do with us? You are naïve if you believe the world is busy thinking about us.

I mean, why there should be another war?

Same reasons as for the previous wars

What reasons?

I don’t know.

 

So there will be no war.

Yes, there will. And again, do you believe we will survive the next war?

 

Questions 08/03/2015

How is the work on War and Peace going in Gaza?

Hossam Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi are starting creative rehearsal sessions with director, Naem Naser Hamdan. The basis of the work is Hossam’s translation of the stage adaptation by Erwin Piscator and colleagues of Tolstoy’s novel.

Naem is one of the best known theatre-makers in the Gaza Strip. He studied the oud and worked as music teacher in Gaza and in Libya in the late 1980s.  He studied theatre with Theater Day Productions from 1993 – 1996 and participated in many theatre productions as an actor, writer and director, discovering that he preferred directing. He is one of  the founders of Gaza Theater Lab in 1996 and of Masafat Theater Group in 2000. He worked with Theater for Everybody as actor and director on many production: Welcome to Hell, Checkpoint, The Night of Life, The Island, The Wall.  His latest production is: “When the Sun Rains”, a play based on improvisations and for which he wrote the final text.  The play which is being performed in Gaza now is a kind of the Palestinian Odyssey depicting the story of the migration of our grandfathers in 1947-1948 right up to today’s forced migration by sea of young Palestinians from Gaza.  The first rehearsal session will be on Sunday 8th March.  Wish I could be there.  Wishing them well.

Why did I get involved in Palestine?

I was asked this twice recently.  Once by the security person at Tel Aviv airport. What a good question, I said and started to rattle on about ‘it’s a human issue’ and ‘this is our world’ and ‘questions of justice’.  He looked mildly annoyed and eventually told me that he thought I had a bomb in my suitcase.

The other was when my friend, a Palestinian working for the British Council, and I were rushing across Trafalgar Square in a lunch break.  I wanted to show her some of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery (Bellini and Piero della Francesco).  Same inarticulate answers! Of course she wasn’t in the least bit annoyed.

I can’t be precise.  Primo Levi (who was imprisoned in Auschwitz) said that the genocidal project of the National Socialist in Germany and the occupied territories from 1933-1945 was a cause for us to be ashamed of being human.  Yes, ashamed of our species because of the depth and scale of this historical event. That’s what I feel is the significance of what is happening in Palestine.

What is the meaning of the expression: a crime against humanity?  I suppose it mainly refers to a crime that a national state perpetrates.  And when a perpetrator national state is ‘supported’ by other national states, then all the citizens thereof are implicated.  This is the truth of what Nelson Mandela said: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians’.  He probably wasn’t directly referring to UK citizens!  When I hear the phrase ‘international community’ I wonder who this is.  Does Israel belong to this community?  Why don’t they abide by international law?

Are we getting access to Gaza?

Through my Member of Parliament I have tabled a written question about access to Gaza.  I believe that the UK government is colluding with the Israelis in the blockade of Gaza.  They are not providing for cultural and educational contact and are complicit in genocidal definitions of humanitarian aid applied there.  This division between Gaza and the West Bank is intrinsic to the genocidal mission of the Israeli state.

The question was:

Ordinary Written question to: Foreign & Commonwealth Office for answer on 02 Mar 2015 12:00 AM
To ask the Secretary of State what steps he is currently taking, if any,to support cultural exchanges between UK artists and educators and their Gaza counterparts.

The answer was:

Mr Tobias Ellwood: The British Council maintains a full-time office in Gaza, with a staff of three who are involved in supporting UK – Gaza interaction in the fields of culture and education. Access restrictions together with our current travel advice warning against travel to Gaza, makes this work hard. However, despite these difficulties, our ongoing commitment has recently yielded various training events for Gazan educators in the West Bank, and Gazan delegates attending the 2014 British Council regional workshop, on “Cultural Leadership and Innovation”, in Beirut.

The answer was submitted on 05 Mar 2015 at 14:29.

Furthermore a group of MPs have put down an Early Day Motion regarding access to Gaza for Members of Parliament.  It has 48 signatures. Take a look.

Also, a group of MPs have put another motion down relating to natural resources in the sea off Gaza. It is quite usual for genocidal processes to include theft.  Take a look.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK are organising a meeting about Gaza at the House of Commons at 18.30 on Tuesday 10th March.  Find out about this and come along.

What else is happening?

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody has agreed to strengthen our artistic partnership by creating a collaboration with Al Rowwad.  This is a wonderful project, based in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, continues ‘beautiful resistance’ to the Israeli occupation. Find out how Al Rowwad do this.  We believe it’s really important at this time to strengthen links between the West Bank and Gaza.

Telesur, the Venezuelan international television news and current affairs channel are commissioning film-maker, Mahmoud Abu Ghalwa, to make a short item on our War and Peace project in Gaza.

Collaborating with an activist who worked with Medical Aid for Palestinians I want to follow up a story I heard while I was in Palestine.  During the war in the summer medical staff at hospitals on the West Bank reported that Gaza patients who come to receive treatment are isolated from other patients and routinely swabbed to identify the types and numbers of bacteria that they carry. The result is confirmation that people from Gaza uniformly carry life-threatening, multi-drug-resistant bacteria in numbers beyond what one would expect to see under normal circumstances. The reason that they are isolated from other patients is to prevent the spread of these bacteria.  This may present evidence of a complex and critical deterioration in environmental health and public hygiene in Gaza.  This also may be interacting with the misuse of anti-biotics.  If anybody reading this has an expertise in environmental or public health and can help framing a way of exploring this issue, please contact me.

Contact: info@aztheatre.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rollercoaster 15/01/15

Yesterday evening I spoke to Hossam and Jamal, directors of Theatre for Everybody in Gaza.  We are all looking forward to Sunday 18th January in three days time when we will be having a public skype conversation at the event at Rich Mix that starts at 3pm with a reading of extracts from a stage adaptation of Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy.  Get tickets

This is a benefit for War and Peace: Gaza (Palestine) – London (UK), a part of our ten-year partnership of cultural and creative exchange.

I have been exploring all ways and means to get support, help and advice in trying to get the required permission to enter Gaza through the Eres Crossing in February.  I am hoping to spend 9 days there after being in Ramallah, Palestine, working with Caryl Churchill and Ashtar Theatre on Love and Information.

It was possible to get into Gaza through Egypt and the Rafah crossing until the army ousted Muslim Brotherhood President, Morsi, in July 2013.

Now it’s only possible to get there through Israel but unless you have special contacts and liaison with the Israelis this is very difficult.  I had a Gaza entry application form from the Israelis from a former attempt and it had a telephone number on it.  I rung it and talked to somebody from the Israeli Co-ordination and Liaison Administration to the Gaza Strip.  He wondered how I’d got the number and told me kindly that Eres wasn’t a check-point it was a crossing.  I thought that was nice. He said only organisations registered with the Israeli Ministry of Interior were given permits and told me to go through their web-site. I’ve requested an application form but they haven’t yet accepted my log-in name and password.  The British Council have referred me to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines. They will provide ‘comfort’ letters to facilitate travel to the West Bank but Gaza is another country. Their official and personal advice is: don’t go.

My friend Steve Tiller was invited by Theatre Day, a children’s theatre company started by Dutch theatre practitioners decades ago.  He got into Gaza because this company has a liaison with the Israelis and maybe are registered with the Ministry of Interior.  I asked them for help but they told me that they couldn’t because I wouldn’t be under their protection in Gaza.  Read about Steve’s trip last year.

I was feeling completely despondent. Nobody was offering me any help or support.  I decided it was really impossible.  And then yesterday, in response to a request that I had made to the PLO Mission here in London, the Cultural Attache called me and started to describe what they could do to get me to meet the right people in Ramallah to secure the liaison with the Israelis.  I was overjoyed.  It is by no means certain that I can get in but at least there is a chance.

Going to Gaza is important to sustain our project. Talking to Hossam and Jamal I expressed the feeling that maybe we had taken on too much in seeking to base a piece of work on Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Hossam has produced an Arabic translation of the version created by Erwin Piscator fro a production at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin in the mid-1950s.  If you are interested in this translation please contact Az Theatre.

The workshops Theatre for Everybody had planned were made impossible by the war last year.  They were to collaborate with the French Institute but the people who worked there have left.  People are exhausted.  The cultural, social and human infrastructure is in ruins.

So I asked them if it was not better to change the aim of the project and to undertake work with young people using perhaps the themes from the book.

Both Jamal and Hossam told me they would be disappointed not to pursue our aim, that there were already projects in Gaza working with young people and that they saw this War and Peace project as a unique inspiration to produce theatre.

We started talking about the basic themes and the structure of the story and how it was about a friendship between two men, Pierre and Andrei, who were quite different.  One was inclined towards peace and the other was inclined towards war.  We talked about how friendships were often between people who were radically different.  So why did these two men react so differently to their situation and what were the forces at work on them that drew them together?

Suddenly the story began to light up with significance.

They told me that they would be starting their work very soon and that they would build the company almost one person at a time.  We agreed it was very important in the circumstances to use the work to build up creative relationships and that the aim should be to make contact with the key movements in the story rather than obeying strictly the requirements of the text.

Our project is characterised by this feeling of being on a rollercoaster. At one moment everything seems impossible and at the next, because of the human contact and shared basic aims, everything seems possible again.

Who knows?  In mid-February I may be joining them in Gaza and we will be working together to develop our production of War and Peace!