Children today are brought up in a world that is constantly changing, while basic concepts such as country, home, family, homeland and national identity are being redefined; in a world where populations and people do not have the right to move freely, and the words “refugee” and “migrant” are assumed to be an identity and not an attribute.
From April to July 2016, we took part in the designing and implementation of a series of workshops within the framework of the action “Monologues across the Aegean Sea”, in order to record the stories of unaccompanied refugee children. Minors that had to leave their country of origin and are in the process of moving to Europe. Having in mind the example of the “Gaza Monologues”1, our intention was to create an open form with a particular content that would give the participants the ability to speak their own mind, thus opening a dialogue with themselves, with their peers and with the international community. In the designing phase of the workshops, we came across the following questions-challenges:
In what way should we approach these young people through a drama/ theatre procedure that would respect and recognise their personal experiences?
In what way will their voice be reinforced, multiplied and transformed into action?
In what way will their dreams and hopes for the future be useful as an educational tool for their peers and as a tool that will raise awareness in the broader educational and artistic community? The above questions, as well as the difficulties deriving from the coexistence of minors from different countries with their own culture, led us to a workshop structure that would take into account these particularities. Our primary goal was to reinforce the cohesion and the dynamics of the group, to empower these young people, and then to establish a relationship of trust with them. The emotional opening of the participants was gradual; through exercises and techniques we helped them “let off steam” and focus on their gradual exposure and expression. The activities were given in a symbolic way, so as to ensure that the children would share their experiences and dreams, unforced and without the fear of exposure. At the beginning of each meeting there was a “warm up” to activate the group. Then, the main part of the workshop followed, where we used theatre games, educational drama, theatre of the oppressed (A. Boal), Playback theater, psychodrama and shadow theatre techniques, so as to develop the subject for each meeting, as well as to introduce that of the next. The last part included creative writing activities and each time, the workshop ended with sharing and reflective activities.
The designing and the implementation of the workshops was in a framework of cooperation and feedback with the PRAKSIS social workers, the coordinators and other collaborators of the project. Our goal was to develop the process along with the participants, listening carefully to their needs and contributing to their empowerment.
During the whole procedure and despite the careful planning, we came across a few difficulties which we tried to face with flexibility, by adjusting the pre-planned activities even during the workshops. The changes in the composition of the group, the volatile psychological state of many minors, the absence of interpreters from certain workshops and the instability of the children’s daily schedule, made our project more difficult. In addition, the workshops coincided with the Ramadan2, during which many youths abstained from our meetings. There were times when we wondered whether this project could finally be completed as we had envisioned, and whether we would finally succeed in bypassing all the obstacles mentioned above; however, one big teenage smile as a welcome and a sea of hugs for a goodbye, were enough to make all our doubts disappear. Because, as the artistic director of ASHTAR theatre in Palestine, Iman Aoun, characteristically says: “Theatre is will that becomes action and claims the victory of life”.
Dionysia Asprogeraka, Giorgos Bekiaris, Vera Lardi,
Sonia Mologousi, Iro Potamousi, Andriana Tavantzi
Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network