THE FREEDOM THEATRE / US Premiere Tour 2017-18
The Freedom Theatre draws its inspiration from a unique project, Care and Learning, which used theatre and art to address the chronic fear, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by children in Jenin Refugee Camp. Set up during the first Intifada the project was run by Arna Mer Khamis, a revolutionary who devoted her life to campaigning for freedom and human rights, together with women in the refugee camp.
The fierce and energetic humanity of this woman, who was born to a Jewish family and who had chosen to live and work among the Palestinians, inspired the children with possibilities for an alternative reality. Arna was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, in 1993 for her “…passionate commitment to the defence and education of the children of Palestine”. With the award money she built a children’s theatre, the Stone Theatre, which was later destroyed in the Israeli invasion of the refugee camp in 2002.
“The Intifada, for us and for our children, is a struggle for freedom. We call our children project “Learning and Freedom”. These are not just words. They are the basis of our struggle. There is no freedom without knowledge. There is no peace without freedom. Peace and freedom are bound together. Bound together!” – Arna Mer Khamis
Arna’s work is documented in the internationally awarded film Arna’s Children, which gives some fascinating background to The Freedom Theatre. The film is directed by Juliano Mer Khamis, Arna’s son who in 2006 co-founded The Freedom Theatre. Juliano was the General Director of the theatre until 2011, when he was brutally assassinated by an unknown enemy of culture and freedom.
Thanks to the support from friends around the world, the staff and board members managed to keep the theatre going and growing ever stronger. Just as The Freedom Theatre was built on the inspiration and legacy of Arna, Juliano’s mother, so will its future work be built on the legacy of Juliano. It will carry on his message to promote freedom – not only for the Palestinian people but for all human beings.
“You don’t have to heal the children in Jenin. We are not trying to heal their violence. We try to challenge it into more productive ways. And more productive ways are not an alternative to resistance. What we are doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear. I know it’s not good for fundraising, because I’m not a social worker, I’m not a good Jew going to help the Arabs, and I’m not a philanthropic Palestinian who comes to feed the poor. We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle. . . . We’re not healers. We’re not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.” – Juliano Mer Khamis
CREATED & DIRECTED BY
Nabil Al-Raee & Zoe Lafferty
Andy Purves, Lighting Designer
Anna Gisle, Set Designer
Dror Feiler, Composer
Mohamed Yousef, Costume Designer
Nikola Kodjabashia, Composer
Noor Al-Raee, Composer
April 2002. Spring in Bethlehem. A group of armed men seek sanctuary in one of the world’s holiest sites as the Israeli army closes in with helicopters, tanks and snipers. Along with the fighters are some 200 priests, nuns and civilians. The siege lasts for 39 days, paralysing the center of Bethlehem and keeping tens of thousands under curfew. Inside the Church of Nativity the besieged are hungry and weakening. The smell of unwashed bodies and broken lavatories is mixed with the stench from the suppurating wounds of the injured. Two dead bodies are decomposing in a cave below the church. While the world is watching, the fighters are faced with the question of whether to struggle to the end or to surrender. No matter what they choose, they will have to leave their families and their homeland behind forever.
The Siege is based on the 2002 events in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, that played out parallell to the invasion of Jenin Refugee Camp and made headlines worldwide. The directors traced the fighters, now exiled across Europe and Gaza, and collected their untold accounts of an event that with time has taken on almost mythical proportions.
Capacity: 100 – 1500
Stage: Proscenium / Black Box
Personnel: Up to 9 (plus local collaborators)
October 12 – 22 | Skirball Center for the Performing Arts | New York, NY