German Palestinian Dialogue

The power of Theatre by Tahseen Yaqeen

Dramatists have never met before like we have… It was not only a meeting about theatre or art, but it was about thought and that’s why it was outstanding...

It could be a reborn, or a new language; wishing it could bloom trees of speech… This brainstorming makes another opening for this great art “The Father of Arts”.

We could make use of the meeting itself as a script; dramatists discussing the role of theatre in society and life; in such a materialistic world that took over thoughts and emotions at all levels; individuals, groups and international relations. People care about gold, and artists care about golden palm trees, golden coasts at sunset or golden spikes and beam. Everyone has their own gold with which they are satisfied and pleased, pursuing it or living for it. Perhaps, this could be the tragedy of those artists who are trying to attract people to their own gold, or this could be the comedy of humans not the “Divine Comedy” of Dante Alighieri!

It is then the power of culture, thought, meanings, arts, roses and flowers, songs, love poetry, elegiac poetry, colors, touch, taste, and the smell of daffodils, for spending two days talking about theatre triggers a vision of drama in your mind. This leads us to Tawfik Al-Hakim’s works that are worth reading, but not made to be performed on stage; it is perhaps applicable on the “stage” of mind.

We gathered on a stage in Dar Al-Kalima College – Behtlehem; dramatist from Palestine and Germany, and led a deep cultural dialogue that stems from inside; full of love, interest, specialization, and sophisticated philosophic thought. We haven’t acted we have been ourselves, our true selves. Each of us had his own way in expressing themselves; perhaps the director Sameh Hijazi was as dynamic as theatre itself in his conversation. He reminded me of acting, while Mr. Klaus Hoffmann, who’s coming from a deep thinking culture, gives the impression of a tranquil soul. We sat there among them with our own thoughts, experiences, ambitions and longing for the future of theatre, its being and gathering people all around us.

A dialogue on a rectangular wooden board in a classroom resembles a theater dialogue. On the first one we lay our hands, and on the second one dramatist spend a great part of their lives stamping their feet on it. Nevertheless, there is a heart that beats between the ribs, and above all there is a mind that thinks and urges us to think.

Since 1992, I have been following up the theatrical movement in our country. Never have dramatist had a fully integrated meeting such as this one in Dar Al-Kalima College – Bethlehem, which gathered all the of those who have interest in drama; institutions, theatres, academies, administrators, directors, critics, trainers and history too. It seems that this artistic workshop has truthfully expressed its title “Drama and Teaching Drama”. It is considered to be a strategic workshop with what it included, not only because it aims to create a working network between Palestinian and German dramatists, but also because it tackles the vivid art of the current drama and what it entails to develop, and to mobilize staff from the theatre field whether they are students of fine arts or students of workshops and courses in vocational training; in addition to talking about texts and translations and dialogue with the audience.

That is the best feature of the meeting, and I wished that the department of drama in the Ministry of Culture could have attended to benefit from the experience of the German dramatist in particular on how to deal with the theatrical movement comprehensively; about teaching this existing art, facilitating for shows, and attracting the audience to it; such a strong power that could be magical!

Drama and its training are inseparable, and this is one of the traditions of Ashtar Theatre, Al-Hara Theatre, and the Folk theatre… Education; however, is also integrated in drama, that’s why Al-Qasabah Theater founded a Drama Academy as an educational faculty, and that’s what Dar Al-Kalima College is doing; it started with drama training of amateurs, and went to establish an ambitious academy to teach drama; moreover, it is working on building stages and equipping them.

To be objective, the context of our dialogue was close to our lives and to the role of theatre, the content of plays, their characters that face tragic endings like what happened to the late Juliano Mer-Khamis the founder of Freedom Theatre, who was assassinated and considered a martyr at the altar of thought and society. Furthermore, Ashtar Theatre’s experience with the Theatre of the Oppressed aimed towards social change, which was established by the Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. It was an extension of the struggle for national liberation in which dramatists from Palestine and countries abroad have participated in; it’s a political Theatre movement against occupation. However, after the Palestinian Authority took charge, it was followed by a theatre that calls for social and political democracy.

In the workshop that was held under the cooperation between Dar Al-Kalima College, the German Theatre Federation, and the University of Applied Science of Osnabrück, which was supported by the Lutheran World Federation and Goethe Institute; the discussion involved both experiences in teaching drama; the growing Palestinian experience and the deep-rooted German one. This enabled us to get to know skills, expertise and the science of theatre. We were also introduced to related arts, literature, communication and planning, besides topics that dealt with acting, improvisation, body language, dancing and musical theatre; in addition to subjects in art education and intellectuality. I personally wished that we could study the history of philosophy, political and social changes, gender, national cause, psychology and sociology or sociodrama in particular, since they make the content of drama in our country. It is also essential to learn languages especially English to broaden our horizons. That’s because drama is the greatest of arts and the offspring of thought. Thus we must work on educating artists in the process and after graduation, for there is no art that isn’t involved in reading, observation, and listening to people and tackling issues.

The sublime target of the workshop has been achieved; it was vivid in the passion of the speakers, how seriously they take theatre, and their belief in its role. The masters of art and the professors met to discuss the influence of theatre and its presence in life, and to tackle further its role in developing the life of individuals and groups to reach as much as possible of non-reading audience, so as to improve the quality of coexistence living eminently.

The comments of both German and Palestinian participants showed a belief in the role of theatre, in harmony with the perception of artists and cultured people, and of the role of art and culture in society and life. It was all about freedom of expression, respect for diversity, democracy, norms, love, coexistence, tolerance, change, and development, where exchange of information and experience took place.

Does theatre really improve life?

What about difficulties and struggle?

The speech of Mr. Hoffmann captured the mind and the heart; where he approached the intellectual side of theatre and art emphasizing the role of art despite the struggle; it is the hope for a better future..

It is Preferable to expand the circle and the dialogue so that it reaches out for dramatists and intellectuals who believe in social change, and how to deal effectively with political, social, and cultural changes, so that the theatre will gain its presence, interpretation, incentive, and stimulant to own the strength that we seek.

We haven’t held the meeting just to discuss art, but we also gathered to discuss its role. There is no real art that attracts an audience without giving them something to relate to, and be concerned about; an authentic theatre is the one that expresses life issues!

I have devoted myself to follow-up the theater movement; as a critic I have followed in the past two decades several works observing themes and content of theatre. I've been interested in the artistic form and content, and I could conclude what a strategic work is. I have also made a personal quick study about the role of theatre between the two uprisings “Intifada”, in other words the period of establishing the Palestinian Authority. Nevertheless, any objective researcher can evaluate the role of dramatists in this period; on one hand, they were authentic standing up for real human issues, while on the other hand they deviated, and went on to satisfy the desire of donors, in an absence that cannot be explained or understood, instead of supporting the official institution.

I believe that the German- Palestinian dialogue about theatre and thought together boosted the depth of our convictions that we have always believed in; for instance, the appreciation of the genuineness of art, and approaching our real issues to express them through the artistic form of theatre in a worthy way.

There is no theatre without having the ability of refining art itself in an elevated way within a frame of noble thought. The quality of form and the nobility of content can entail dramatic change ...
Will the role of theatre be evident?

I think that the role of theater in the coexistence and the improvement of the quality of life are sacred, noble, and integrate with the roles of other institutions in society. However, art, artist, educators, and intellectuals have the same target, thus cooperation is a vital condition! Perhaps, an ambitious network could create a starting point of cooperation between Palestinian and German dramatists!

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