Receiving their visas one day before the shows were scheduled to take place and the many canceled and delayed flights didn’t stop each of the Caravan and the Launch of a Street Theater Group of the Sinai Bedouin Minority project of participating in Sfax Capital of Arab Culture festival 2016 in Tunisia. Despite the sleep deprivation and the exhausted bodies, the two groups managed to take over the streets with deftness and energy to perform their street theater shows. Performing ‘The Caravan’ and ‘The Land of Turquoise’ shows in the festival aimed at spreading the message of the Drama, Diversity and Development project to the different segments of audiences attending the festival. The groups’ participation aimed also at encouraging the use of street theater as a tool to promote diversity and combat discrimination, as these performances shed the light on issues of discrimination and alienation faced by Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and the Sinai Bedouins in Egypt. Mohammed Lattouf from the Caravan project spoke to the Drama, Diversity and Development project in a recent interview about his experiences working with the project and his trip to Tunisia.
What did the Caravan Project symbolize to you?
“The Caravan project was my first experience performing in a street theater show. I was nervous before every performance, as I knew it was my job, along with my teammates, to approach people walking in the streets and get their attention to watching our performance. I guess my biggest fear of performing in the streets was not knowing how people would react to the message we were trying to deliver. But, to my surprise, every time we started performing the fear drifted away. Realizing the significance of sharing my people’s stories as a result of the civil war in Syria eased the anxiety and fear I had before every show. Overall, I feel like our team succeeded in delivering the message we hoped to deliver to our audience.”
What was your favorite scene/part of the performance? and why?
“My favorite was one of the scenes that I felt I was living the role completely. It was from ‘A Small Piece of Meat Recording’ and it pictured the actors collecting the remains of a group of dead bodies. This scene was very touching to me as I lost my three nieces during the bombing of my city. During that scene, all I could think of was them and how hard it was to bury their bodies under the piles of our destroyed house”
What do you think your project was trying to achieve?
“The Caravan Project was trying to highlight the challenges facing the many displaced communities running for their survival and safety, whether we are addressing the issue of Syrian, Iraqi or Palestinian refugees who had to flee their homes as a result of the unfortunate events taking place in the region. Some of the issues we were addressing also applied to the poor and marginalized population of the hosting countries these refugees escaped to. For example, the lack of health and school facilities are as much of an issue for the marginalized and poor Lebanese communities as it’s for Syrian refugees displaced in Lebanon. I believe the project succeeded in reaching out to the people attending the street theater performances and delivered the message of these disadvantaged communities eloquently. Many people were touched by our message and most of the audience were glad that the issues facing these refugee communities are being addressed.”
How do you feel the targeted audience reacted to the message you’re trying to deliver?
“The majority of our targeted audience enjoyed the performance and had positive feedback in regards to the message we were trying to deliver. We actually assessed how people felt about the performance by distributing green and purple cloth strips for them to express their reaction to the performance and its message. The purple stripes meant that the person enjoyed the performance while the green color stripes meant the person didn’t enjoy the performance or didn’t agree with our message. Fortunately, most of the stripes used by the people who attended our performances were purple and very few people using the green stripes.”
After reaching the final stage of your project, what were the main challenges that you faced implementing this project on the ground?
“We didn’t really face any major challenges in the process of carrying the performances on the ground. I would say that the biggest challenge for us as team was trying to come up with new ways to attract as many people as possible every performance and being creative in how to make them interact with what we were trying to address”
How would you describe your experience in Sfax and what was your favorite part of the trip? Were the audience reactions similar to the ones you encountered in Lebanon?
“Our trip to Sfax was very special. The festival included various kinds of arts and music. For instance, there was a group performing some Stamblie music in the streets. I loved their performance as it was perfectly showing how we all are humans and nothing should differentiate us despite our colors and mother tongues. There was also an Egyptian group shedding the light on issues faced by the bedouin community of the Sinai desert. It was empowering to be part of such diverse cultural and artistic display. As for the Caravan, I believe that we were able to give a great performance and deliver a humane message about the reality of Syrian refugees displaced as a result of war and civil conflict. The audience were also very interactive as they enjoyed our performance.”
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