I’m tired. Tired, tired, tired. I work 6 days a week with the actors, then spend many more hours at the apartment revising agendas, planning,
And trying to connect with local and international NGOs who would be interested in supporting this fledgling theater company when we leave. We go to meetings in the mornings and then go to the university in the afternoons until evening working hard and pushing the students harder. The sky is dark when we leave and Kabul is getting chilly, “sard-e-st” … “it is cold” in Dari.
Kianaz works in the mornings then goes to our rehearsal, then school, then home where she is the sole supporter of her mother, father and younger brother. Her father is too ill to work and her mother cares for her brother and the home. We found out that she is still in high school but has persisted in knocking on doors and pushing her way into the Kabul theater department’s activities. If Kianaz can fight for her theater dreams amidst great responsibility and burden, I’m not too tired to give her my best.
Then there’s Sabir, who told us of the hardship his family endured while the Taliban were in power. He lived in Kabul through that time and recalls seeing executions and severed hands in the streets (the famous Taliban punishment for any number of perceived crimes). He and his family subsisted on hard bread and water most days unless they were lucky enough to get some cooking oil. (Food in Kabul is very oily because of this fact. Oil was often the main source of fat and nutrition and people now use a lot of it.) He’s now 25 years old, getting his degree in theater and cinema! He comes to our rehearsals in the day, then his university classes and then works from 10pm – 7am. Did I say I was tired?
Tired, annoyed, bored; these all seem like luxurious states of mind. These students are rising above great personal odds, societal oppression and national instability to make their dreams a reality at any cost – dreams of being theater artists. Their hopes are so much bigger than me. They give me energy when I am drained, spirit when I am down, and sweetness when I get sour.
Right now, the actors have chosen the themes of their plays and their stories. We started off speaking about sexual harassment on the streets, the challenge of getting married when you have no money, the problem of corruption, illiteracy, ethnic discrimination, unemployment and violence against women. The men and women are working as one group but as two teams so that the women can bring their work out to women’s groups and spaces where they are safe. The women have chosen to work on two themes: 1. illiteracy and the oppression of women not to get educated; 2. the challenges of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The men have chosen to work on the theme of personal responsibility to the society. In a country torn apart by decades of war, strife and instability the family unit was the only type of real cohesion, support, and trust. People are still bound to their family unit and the idea of common good, public support, etc. is still being figured out. But this means on every level (from the average Mohammed to the highest Minister) people are likely to pass the buck, not be the leader, and only think in terms of family and known community. So the guys are showing a story about that.
As you can see, they are a beautiful, fun loving, open hearted bunch capable of changing the world. Inshallah, this will be one of many big steps they take tin leading their country women and men towards creative options for change.