Bond Street Theatre's past projects
Over the years Bond Street Theatre has delivered projects across the globe, partnering with many different local and international organisations. Here are some of the highlights...
Balkan Peace Project
Arts Exchange, 2002
In 2002, Bond Street Theatre and their long-time collaborators, Theatre Tsvete, a puppet theatre from Bulgaria, traveled to Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia to conduct artistic exchanges with four excellent theatre companies: Teatri Petro Marko of Vlore, Albania; Theatre Boemi of Skopje, Macedonia; Theatre Dodona of Pristina, Kosovo; andDah Teatar of Belgrade, Serbia.
Our primary goal was to initiate the formation of an inter-Balkan network of artists devoted to peace and cross-cultural cooperation, thePerforming Artists for Balkan Peace.
In each location, the companies shared performance techniques, training processes, ideas and missions. Each group presents a unique artistic style; each is dedicated to addressing the crucial issues of the region: corruption, trafficking, inter-ethnic tensions, war and healing.
Bond Street Theatre and Theatre Tsvete also presented their non-verbal version of Romeo and Juliet at the International Theatre Festival Skampa in Elbason, Albania and the Theatre of the Minorities by the famous Bit Bazaar in Skopje, Macedonia.
In Kosovo, both companies taught at the Arts Academy in Pristina, and at the new Actor’s Studio founded by famed Kosovar playwright and director, Enver Petrovci. Through UNICEF, the companies gave performances at Bosnian refugee centers in Mitrovica, Kosovo, and theFlora Brovina Center for Women in Pristina.
Bosnia and Serbia, 2001
Bond Street Theatre returned to the Balkans in 2001 to continue its artistic-humanitarian work and collaboration with Theatre Tsvete of Bulgaria.
The International Theatre Symposium in honor of Dah Teatar of Belgrade, pioneers in the pro-peace theatre movement in Serbia, was an incredible meeting of theatre leaders and activists.
Romeo and Juliet was presented at two exciting Festivals: the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania and the International Festival of Alternative & New Theatre in Novi Sad, Serbia.
The two companies spent one week the SOS Kinderdorf in Kamenica, Serbia, a “children’s village” of 200 orphans of the war, where they entertained and taught the children each day.
Our performances for the Hospital for Children with Mental Disordersin Kuline, horribly neglected during Milosevic’s reign, was especially rewarding. At first, the doctors were concerned that our Dixieland Band on stilts might agitate the children. To their surprise, the children smiled, laughed and got up to dance! The nurses told us it was the first time they had seen the children respond to anything. A great feature story about this project appeared on UNICEF’s website.
Also through UNICEF, the two companies performed Romeo and Juliet in the most critical areas of Serbia, Bojanovac and Presevo, where ethnic tensions are still high. The audiences were wildly enthusiastic: this type of theatre had not been seen in this region and most theatres had been closed since the war.
The Balkan Youth Reconciliation Seminar, organized by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation and held in Romania, brought together 40 students from 8 Balkan countries to envision a New Balkania. Bond Street Theatre directed the group in a non-verbal version of The Tempest, interwoven with the music and dances of each region beautifully choreographed by Vanaver Caravan. The result was an uplifting tribute to the power of theatre, music and dance to cross cultural barriers and foster trust.
The summer of 2000, one year after the war which devastated Kosovo, Bond Street Theatre had the extraordinary opportunity to collaborate and share theatrical ideas with Theatre Tsvete, an award-winning puppet theatre company from Bulgaria, AND to make a positive contribution to the lives of thousands of Kosovar Albanians.
Together, the two companies created a compelling, non-verbal version of Romeo and Juliet, a story that addresses the tragedy of neighbor against neighbor, and yet takes no sides.
Visual storytelling through images and symbolic actions is an exciting challenge. In our version of Shakespeare’s play, the wedding of Romeo and Juliet occur on the stage at the same time as the duel between Mercutio and Tybalt. By playing the two events simultaneously, divided only by placement on the stage and lighting, the audience experiences Romeo’s personal struggle in choosing between love and violence, between his heart and his sense of duty to defend. This resonated with audiences in Kosovo very deeply, as it might resonate today.
We achieved more than we had imagined: women told us that they were struck by the image of Juliet at her wedding waiting for Romeo to return from the fight. Others were struck by the tragedy of unintended deaths. Others commented on the way that we used ordinary objects to their full theatrical potential; one director said “there are no bounds to your imagination.”
Our play ends with a sense of renewal; the puppet spirits of Romeo and Juliet rise up from their bodies in an ethereal blacklight dance, become one, and vanish. The message of hope was not lost to this audience whose hope is that the spirit of their loved ones are at peace.
The play was presented in theatres throughout Kosovo, most of them riddled with bullet holes and in immense disrepair. We were thrilled that many former refugees recognized us from our performances in the refugees camps the year before.
The two companies also conducted workshops for actors, directors, social workers, other professionals and students, and gave performances and workshops for Roma, Albanian and Serbian children in rural villages and towns throughout Kosovo.
Kosovo Refugee Camps — Macedonia, 1999
As an immediate response to the war in Kosovo, Joanna Sherman and Michael McGuigan spent three weeks bringing laughter, joy and creative play to more than 10,000 Kosovar children in seven refugee camps located throughout Macedonia, many children having been traumatized by the war.
The experience was tremendously rewarding. From the minute we entered the camp we were surrounded by hundreds of children—reaching, watching, waiting for anything to happen. We paraded through the camp with streams of children and adults clamoring around us and trailing behind.
We staged shows before audiences of 1,000-2,000 people, in any open area we could find, and taught mime and theatre games to the children. When we returned to a camp later, we were pleased to find the children demonstrating what they had learned from days before. This project has clearly demonstrated to us the value of interactive theatre, and the healing power of all of the expressive arts.