“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.
Creative Arts Prison Program
Bond Street Theatre begins a new program in the Herat Women's Prison. The program gives women a voice to speak out about the uneven judicial practices that imprison women on moral grounds. By introducing uplifting, self-expressive, theatrical and storytelling processes into the rehabilitative process for incarcerated women and children in prisons, the women gain the confidence, motivation, and life skills to ease reentry into society.
The program will be conducted with our partner Simorgh Theatre in Herat. The women in this theatre group had performed in the prison in 2011, and were stirred by the stories the women told them about their flight from abusive homes or forced marriages, or false accusations without an option for self-defense.
The program gives women who have been deeply debilitated by violence and a flawed legal system, healing ways to approach problems, learn their legal rights, and develop the communication skills and motivation to speak out for justice. In addition, they will learn educational and creative activities to enjoy with their children who are incarcerated with them.
We thank the generous women of Dining for Women for their support.
Educating the Electorate Project
Bond Street Theatre's Voter Education & Fraud Mitigation Project prepared the Afghan population for the Presidential elections on April 5, 2014 and the subsequent run-off election on June 14th. The project built on our ongoing programs with four Afghan theatre groups to bring civic information to hard-to-reach places with a focus on reaching women and youth. The project was supported by the United States Institute of Peace.
BST artist-educators worked closely with our Afghan theatre partners in Kandahar, Nangarhar, Bamyan and Kunduz to design a theatre-based voter education program. The troupes devised educational and entertaining performances that illuminated voter rights, women's rights, and common barriers to voting. The troupes presented 285 performances in 6 provinces and reached more than 150,000 people. Post-performance activities gave audiences the opportunity to discuss problems and role-play their solutions on stage. The new all-female troupes brought information about voter rights to women in isolated areas and prepared them to vote.
In addition, the program focused on youth who were voting for the first time. The theatre groups conducted more than 75 workshops for youth focusing on this generation's role in building the new Afghanistan. The workshops staged mock elections in which the students created a platform, debated the issues, and voted for student candidates. The workshops were so popular, teachers staged the mock elections in their other classes.
Theatre for Social Development
The Theatre for Social Development project trains 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 information. The project has created four new women’s theatre troupes that reach women who are 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 addition to theatre training, the program includes training in business skills and connections to NGOs and UN organizations that may use their services in the future. To date, the program has significantly expanded each company's reach.
In spring 2011, we worked with Simorgh Film & Theatre in Herat, and collaborated on the creation of two shows: Rahela's Bride performed by women's group, and The Lion's Pride by and for men. Both plays addressed conflict resolution, focusing on family issues. The play was presented at the Herat Women's Prison, juvenile correction centers, police trainings, drug rehab centers, youth centers, and schools.
We worked 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 troupe. The groups created two performances: Rights are Not Given; They Are Taken (women's troupe) and Who Is Responsible? (men's troupe). The plays were followed by onstage audience participation to explore alternative solutions to the issues presented. The groups performed at the Women’s Prison, ANCOP (National Police), shelters, and organizations for youth.
In spring 2012, we worked with Nangarhar Theatre in Jalalabad. The Nangarhar team had been presenting social theatre 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 performs solely for women. The groups created two performances addressing rule of law and women’s rights: The Law of the Jungle by the men, and Women Against Women, Women For Women by the women's troupe.
We conducted training for Kandahar Theatre in fall 2012, and also formed their first all-women's troupe, a first in the province. The women brought their play, The Backbiters, directly to women in their homes, the first time these women had a chance to witness live theatre. Sometimes the troupe were asked to do the show 2 and 3 times in one home. The men's group presented Old Ways, New Law, addressing domestic violence.
In addition, we conducted a two week training for a new youth theatre company, Papyrus Theatre of Kabul in fall 2011. The goal was to 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
Bond Street Theatre disseminates effective theatre-based practices that address conflict prevention, reconciliation, and innovative approaches to peacebuilding, through workshops and collaborations with Arts Partners and NGO Partners, featuring outreach programs for adults and youth, and business training to ensure sustainability.
2010-2012 - the Theatre for Social Development project trained four Afghan theatre companies, created four new all-women's troupes, and improved their capacity to create & tour informational plays, 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 US theatre artists. The groups presented their play, A Kite's Tale, about children's rights throughout India, along with uplifting workshops for rural women, street children, and other disadvantaged groups.
2008 - BST 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 - BST conducted a workshop program for Aschiana in Kabul, focusing on self-confidence, self-expression, and group cooperation, and trained a theatre group at Mediothek Center in Kunduz.
2005 - BST 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 international media.
2003 - BST's first work in Afghanistan: a collaboration with Exile Theatre, a company of formerly exiled professional theatre artists, and brought healing programs to refugee families that were pouring back into the country. With Afghanistan-Schulen, BST reached 25,000 children in the rural north, focusing especially on girls who were returning to school after years of Taliban ban on girls' education.
2001 - Following September 11, 2001, BST members traveled to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to bring joy and laughter 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