For young Palestinian actors, the academy is a dream come trueImage: Drama Academy Ramallah
June 26, 2010
Actors from the Palestinian territories' first drama academy have teamed up with German acting students to perform a new version of the ancient Greek tragedy "Antigone."
For the first time, a German-Palestinian theater production is taking the stage. Titled "Antigone 2010," it is being performed in several theaters in Germany's Ruhr region, which is one of three European Capitals of Culture this year.
Students from Drama Academy Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority capital in the West Bank, and the Folkwang University of the Arts in the western-German city of Essen present the work in both a German and an Arabic version.
The play is based on the ancient Greek drama "Antigone," but staged in a modern way, with lighting and sound effects and plenty of action. Directors chose Sophocles' "Antigone" because it represents the birth of occidental theater and therefore the beginning of the art of acting, they said.
Sophocles' play touches on universal issues like the relationship between man and God - or gods, the role of the state, and questions of guilt, atonement, and fate.
Drama Academy Ramallah opened in October 2009 as the first school for actors on Palestinian territory. It is a joint initiative of Folkwang University and the Al-Kasaba Theater and is funded in part by the German-based Mercator Foundation, which has invested 300,000 euros ($370,000) in the project.
The "Antigone 2010" project reflects the success of the young Drama Academy Ramallah, which gives Palestinian students the unique opportunity of developing their acting skills on home soil.
New perspectives for Palestinians
Until now, Palestinians had no opportunity to officially study acting in their homeland. While Israel has numerous high-class drama academies, these are inaccessible to Palestinians.
Ramallah's first students are between 20 and 30 years old and come from Bethlehem and Jerusalem. They receive free tuition at the academy, but need to be able to cover their living expenses themselves. The drama course is demanding, with eight to 10 hours of classes daily for three years. At the end, the students receive a bachelor degree.
"It's like a dream," said 22-year-old Ramallah student Amjad Haschin. "I'm so happy to learn and study in Palestine."
The Folkwang University of the Arts supports the students and teachers at Ramallah, helping with administrative and teaching-related challenges. It invites Ramallah members to workshops and meetings in Germany, and also sends its own teachers over to work at the academy.
George Ibrahim, the manager of the acclaimed Al Kasaba Theater in Ramallah and a key player in theater education in the area, believes that the West Bank and Gaza are in need of more professionally trained actors.
"When we have professional actors, they will teach others," said Ibrahim. "Talent is not enough."
According to drama professor Johannes Klaus from Folkwang University, the Palestinian-German cooperation does not only benefit the Palestinians. "I found it very exciting that our students also deal with the socio-political aspect of theater," said Klaus.
After the initial performances in Germany, "Antigone 2010" is set to be staged in Ramallah.