“We welcome your work as an educational theatrical method for our students, especially for our young generation who has been involved in war and conflict.”
Bond Street Theatre has been working in Afghanistan since 2003. Our goal is to introduce theatre-based educational programs in Afghanistan, especially targeting women and girls who have few outlets for creative expression, and to help revitalize the performing arts after years of cultural repression.
Educating the Electorate Project
Bond Street Theatre's new Voter Education & Fraud Mitigation Project, is preparing the Afghan population for the upcoming Presidential elections on April 5, 2014. The project builds on our ongoing capacity-building for theatre groups to bring civic information to hard-to-reach places, with a focus on reaching women and youth. We appreciate support for the project from the United States Institute of Peace.
Bond Street Theatre educators traveled to Afghanistan in July 2013 to assist our Afghan theatre partners in Kandahar, Nangarhar, Bamyan and Kunduz design a theatre-based voter education program. The troupes have devised educational and entertaining performances that illuminate voter rights, women's rights, and common barriers to voting. The teams are working with election monitors to inform the shows.
The Afghan troupes will present the educational performances with post-show dialogues, which give audiences the opportunity to discuss problems and role-play their solutions. All-female troupes are bringing this important information to women in isolated areas and prepare them to speak out and vote. Please contribute to support our Afghan Women Speak Out through Theatre campaign on Indiegogo (click on title). Thank you!
In addition, the Afghan theatre groups will conduct leadership workshops for youth throughout Afghanistan focusing on this generation's role in building the new Afghanistan. The workshops feature mock elections in which the students create a platform, debate issues, and vote for student candidates.
Theatre for Social Development
Bond Street Theatre’s ongoing Theatre for Social Development project partners with Afghan theatre companies to apply their art to social improvement, and bring information to rural areas where illiteracy is high and people, especially women, have little access to news and information, and creates new women’s troupes to reach all-female audiences isolated by tradition, location, or incarceration. The goal is to build the capacity of local theatre organizations to provide educational services on an ongoing basis to their communities.
In the spring 2011, we partnered with Simorgh Film and Theatre in Herat for the first leg of the project. Bond Street Theatre actor-educators and Simorgh actors and directors collaborated on the creation of two original shows: Rahela's Bride performed by women for women, and The Lion's Pride by and for men. Both plays addressed family conflict – a topic that all actors and directors agreed was most critical in the region. The play was presented at the Herat Women's Prison, juvenile correction centers, drug rehab centers, and schools.
We partnered with White Star Company in Kabul in fall 2011, creating the first resident professional theatre company at Kabul University, and its first all-female theatre company. Both groups created performances on social issues chosen by the students and their solutions: Rights are Not Given; They Are Taken (women's troupe) and Who Is Responsible? (men's troupe). Performances were followed by active participation by audience members in the style of Forum Theatre. Post-performances activities, led by the actors, address the viability of the solutions presented on stage and stimulate further thinking. The ensembles performed at the Women’s Prison in Badam Bagh, ANCOP (the National Police), safe houses, shelters, and organizations for youth.
We worked with the Nangarhar Provincial Theatre in Jalalabad in spring 2012. The Nangarhar team had been creating mobile theatre to address social issues in the troubled border region with Pakistan but, in accordance with tradition, had not included women in the troupe. BST created an all-female troupe, the first in the province, that would perform solely for women. The groups created two original performances addressing conflict resolution and women’s rights. The women's troupe created Women Against Women, Women For Women, and the men's troupe created The Law of the Jungle.
We conducted training for Maiwand Company of Kandahar in fall 2012. Due to security issues, the actors and directors traveled to Jalalabad to conduct two weeks of training in theatre skills and business. Through this training, Maiwand company formed a new all-women's troupe that created an original show, The Backbiters. The men's troupe updated and extended an existing script, Old Ways, New Law, adding elements to make it more engaging and informational. The troupe returned to Kandahar to present performances. The women's troupe brought their play to women in their homes, the first time the women witnessed live theatre.
As an addition to the project, directors Joanna Sherman and Michael McGuigan held a two week training program with director Tahera Hashemi and her new theatre company, Papyrus Theatre, based in Kabul in fall 2011. The goal was to expand their theatrical vocabulary, improve their ability to devise plays that illuminate social issues, and develop their ability to design and administer programs, especially for women and girls.
Theatre for Social Development program staff includes: Joanna Sherman, Michael McGuigan, Anna Zastrow, Kayhan Irani, Sahar Muradi, Monireh Hashemi, and Sayed Karim Zhwandoon.
"I want more of these programs so that Afghan women can show people here and everywhere that they can do anything." – Ruhia, Afghanistan
History & Projects
We work to disseminate effective theatre-based practices that address conflict prevention, reconciliation skills, and innovative approaches to peacebuilding, through a series of workshops and collaborations with Afghan Arts Partners (theatre organizations) and NGO Partners, including outreach programs for children and youth, and basic business training to improve sustainability.
2010-2012 - Bond Street Theatre partnered with theatre companies in four provinces through Theatre for Social Development project, creating four new all-women's troupes. The company built the capacity of arts partners to create and tour informational productions, particularly to isolated areas where illiteracy is high.
2006-2009- The US-Afghan Arts Exchange and Conflict Resolution Project facilitated artistic exchange between Afghan, Indian, and American theatre artists. The groups collaborated on an original show, A Kite's Tale, presented performances throughout India, and provided uplifting workshops for rural women, street children, and other disadvantaged groups.
2008- We worked with Aschiana in Mazar-i-Sharif using theatre techniques to improve education and build self-confidence for street-working children and to empower local women.
2007- We conducted a performance and workshop program for Aschiana in Kabul, focusing on self-confidence, physical expression, and group cooperation. The company also trained an all-girls theatre group at Mediothek Center in Kunduz.
2005- We completed two residencies at Kabul University, teaching students and preparing a collaborative production Beyond The Mirror with Exile Theatre, the first ever Afghan-US collaboration. The production premiered in Kabul and toured in Japan and the US with glowing response from audiences and media.
2003- We traveled to Afghanistan to collaborate with Exile Theatre, and to bring healing, uplifting work to refugee families that were pouring back into the country. In partnership with Afghanistan-Schulen, we reached 25,000 children in the rural north, focusing especially on girls who were returning to school after four years of Taliban ban on education for girls.
2001- Following September 11, 2001, Bond Street Theatre members traveled to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to bring joy to Afghan children and learn more about the conflict.
Afghanistan Country Background
After three decades of war, occupation, drought and constant displacement, Afghanistan is starting the long process of recovery. Beginning with the Russian invasion in 1979, followed by a decade of mujahideen-driven civil war, eight years of repressive Taliban rule, US retaliation after September 11th, and an upsurge of violence in 2006, Afghanistan needs help more than ever.
- Theatre and all of the arts were decimated by the eight years of strict Taliban law. Most children under the age of 10 had never seen a performance of any kind, nor a painting, nor seen a dance.
- A generation of Afghan women and girls have gone without an education.
- The excessive violence and instability of the last decades in Afghanistan has created a population with disrupted coping skills, compounded by inconsistent schooling, work, recreation and voice in civic affairs.
“The first collaboration between an Afghan and an American theatre company, [the play] has a quiet authority, even delicacy, that is truly powerful.”- Margo Jefferson, The New York Times