ARTMAN IN GAZA
Last Summer Oliver and Paloma were asked to go and work for a wonderful theatre company, Theatre Day Productions, that has been resident in the Gaza Strip for 20 years. In 2015, the company brought theatre to 144,000 children in Gaza City, over a three-week tour by 20 theatre troupes put together by TDP; the tour was part of the Summer Games project, organised and funded by UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees).
Oli's role on the project was that of directing mentor and workshop consultant. The mentoring team was working with six new directors, who had grown up with Theatre Day Productions, on six different shows. Good fortune brought him together with two directors, Ali Mohanna and Manola Bokarat, on a play called The Snow Trip. The criteria was that each show had four theatre troupes, who were all learning the same piece. There were also two workshops: one to accompany each play, and an UNRWA Explosive Remnants of War workshop, that to be designed and learnt. So that is what we did, and we had a truly wonderful time filled with warmth, hospitality, friendship and of course theatre.
Paloma (who was working on a voluntary basis, with the help of generous donations from different members of the extense Artman family) was asked if she could mentor Abdalla Magari whilst documenting the project. Abdalla is 27 and has been working with TDP for seven years now, coming up through the company, to become their project photographer and videographer. As with all of the people that we spoke to, the inability to travel outside Gaza is one of the more difficult things of being Gazan, and as such, having the chance to work with people of other nationalities is of huge importance. Paloma worked with Abdalla on a daily basis shooting the rehearsals, discussing the work, exploring techniques. I think that Paloma and Abdulla ended up being some of the busiest people in the theatre company, but they were also in the enviable position of seeing everybody's shows. Paloma also became an instant sister to the ladies in the rehearsal room wherever she went... a joyous scene to behold!
It was wonderful to share in the incredible work TDP are doing in Gaza, producing high quality theatre under so many restrictions and challenges. It was a privilege for us to be a part of a team that was welcomed so unreservedly to the heart of this vital theatre community. For people living under such extremely difficult conditions and circumstances, the importance of play, imagination, self expression and creativity can not be underestimated. Theatre is a rarity in Gaza, but the passion of the TDP staff and members means that theatre is seen all across the land; this is truly a thing to be celebrated.