Tomorrow is my last day of training. The actors from Khost, Baghlan and Herat are going to perform two short Forum Theater plays for a limited audience of friends and colleagues.
At the core of both stories is the question of whose decisions are respected? Who has the power to make a life choice, and who doesn’t.
The first story is that of a young girl, Faribah, and her widowed mother. Faribah’s excited that she passed her exams and her mother is unsure but proud that she’ll go to university.
However, there are two uncles standing in the way. They are afraid that a girl in the world will sully their reputation, besides, this is the first time such a thing would be happening in this family.
In the end, mother and daughter have no say in the matter … or do they?
The second story is one of a young man whose dream it is to be an actor. His uncle sees him in a drama on TV and threatens to kick him out of the house. The boy’s father supports him but he has no money nor resources to rely on should they be kicked out of the house.
Will Mirza be forced to abandon his dreams for a roof overhead? Can a young man choose to be an artist?
Our discussions around the play have been about choice. Who gets to make the choice, which choices are respected and how long is the distance is between law and customary practice.
When someone is threatening your livelihood – you aren’t cavalier with the outcome. Especially not in a country like Afghanistan where many family members live under one roof and off of one income.
What is the value of the arts in society? Other careers are respected, but art is overlooked. (Seems like Afghanistan isn’t that different from many places in this regard.)
How can we redefine the value of arts in society – not just in terms of money but in terms of how art feeds society and makes it healthy.
In the case of the mother and daughter, how does someone access rights they don’t know they have?
How to bring the culture, values and norms in line with formal law … or create mechanisms of justice that are rooted in culturally respected practice?
How to fight oppression and internalized oppression so that people feel worthy of accessing justice?
Our discussions have been robust and I am pleased that the actors are engaging in thinking and rethinking their assumptions. Often times they start out with the “P.C.” answer, then express a non-P.C. answer, and then have lively discussion about why each side is wrong!
They head out to their provinces on Friday where they will perform these shows and then create a brand new one with their full groups. I can’t wait to hear what they do, what discussions they have, and how theater is bringing about discussion, debate and self reflection.
I am off to an Afghan wedding tonight … stay tuned for photos!