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The Jenin Freedom Theatre presents, "Lost Land"

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By Samuela Galea - November 26, 2013
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Section: [Main News] [Culture] [In Pictures] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Jenin Freedom Theater] [Jenin] [culture]

 Photos by Gabriel R.

After two months of research, writing and rewriting, three weeks of pre-production with the designer, one month of travel within the West Bank, seven months living with a Palestinian family in a refugee camp, three months of Arabic lessons, two and a half months of rehearsals and thirty years ''impassioned by the Palestinian plight'' - a well-known British Director (who prefers not to be named) was thrilled to finally present Lost Land  at The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee camp.

The play is based on a famous French Novel, Le Grand Meaulnes, by Alain Fournier, written a year before the break of the First World War, recounting the lives of youth in rural France. The story unfolds around the emotions, aspirations and daily life of various characters, bursting with the underlying heavy atmosphere which is felt just before a war, and all the while emphasizing that with extraordinary circumstances come extraordinary people. 

When asked why this particular novel was chosen for an adaptation to The Freedom Theatre's work, the Director explains that she felt a strong similarity and parallelism with the Palestinian situation and struggle. She felt, ''a yearning for what has been taken, destroyed, trampled upon. A people, occupied and uprooted, longing for a Lost Land,'' the play's Press Release explains. Just like the characters in the novel, Palestinians are born in a situation that leads to such courage and resilience that would otherwise not be present.

Artistic Director, Mr. Nabeel Al-Raee, said during a short interview with the Palestine Monitor that the play is an artistic expression of the loss of Palestinian land which, as he describes, was ''stolen.” ''For me the problem is clear,'' he explains, ''it does not take much to see the truth... there is an Occupier - this must be stopped.'' 

His opinion is that, in the eyes of the international community, Palestinians seem nonexistent. ''We are ignored, sometimes even by the Arab world... the reality is that nothing happens, nothing changes... So we must be unified. We have a number of goals and we must run after our dreams in order to exist,'' he says passionately. Thus, though the land be lost physically, it remains very much alive and present within them.

The play develops around social, political and, most of all, human stories; the personal adventure of each character is intertwined with the land's fate. ''We have 65 characters in this play,'' relates Mr. Al-Raee, ''it is the first time there will be collaboration between different generations of students at our theatre, including new students and graduates.'' 

Apart from the symbolic significance, there is an intricate technical aspect in this particular performance, which provides the actors with an interesting chance to develop and delve deeper into their skills, and this is equally important to both the actors and organizers . The play may seem simple at first, yet there is an undoubtedly deeper complexity of character and social analysis beneath the surface, as is also explained in the play's Press Release.

13 actors will take part in Lost Land, with some 25 others involved in the play's creation, production and administration. Mr Alraee and the Director are both enthusiastic about the project. They look forward to the performances and to finally share all the team's hard work with the public. They are eager to thank their sponsors, namely the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Swedish Postcode Lottery, the Consulate General of France and the Roddick Foundation, for all the support and add that if the opportunity arises, they would be delighted to perform the play abroad. Entrance was free for anyone to enjoy during their opening performances, which ran from Thursday the 21st through Sunday the 24th of November, attracting a large audience from all over the West Bank and filling up the Theatre on all days. It was so successful infact that an additional final performance will be held on Wednesday 27th November whilst other special performances will take place later on at schools in Jenin.

On Wednesday, 20 November, The Freedom Theatre also celebrated the United Nations Universal Children's Day to remind the children and their families of their own rights. A special workshop was organized within the refugee camp where children wrote down their dreams on small pieces of paper. These papers were later attached to small lanterns and sent up into the sky, thus symbolizing and encouraging hope and unity despite the difficult situation, just like the symbolism within the play. 

Through such memorable, uniting and educational events and activities, the theatre strives each day to promote and uphold its founder's wish of ''cooperating with others in generating a cultural resistance,'' as quoted from The Freedom Theatre's website. Their goal is to never to give up, to act and not just speak... to change what they can and withstand what they can't - to fight for peace through drama, song, dance, creativity and positivity - until freedom and justice can shine through even the darkest of moments, until the land is no longer lost, and the lantern dreams are no longer dreams, but reality.

 

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