Playback Theatre in Tripoli: A Glimpse of the Past for the Future
Who hasn’t heard of the rounds of armed conflicts between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh? This topic has become such an over-talked issue that we no longer pay attention to it or to what has happened there since the fighting stopped in 2014.
The rounds of conflict left their marks on the local communities; locals say that little was done to help with their healing as citizens of one city, Tripoli, North of Lebanon.
The UNDP Lebanese Host Communities Program through the “Peace Building in Lebanon” project, decided to launch a playback theatre troupe in Tripoli, based on participatory analysis of Tripoli and the feedback from local youth. As part of the Mechanisms for Social Stability (MSS), this initiative was one of the mechanisms developed as a response for the situation in Tripoli, funded by UNDP.
Master trainers from “Wasel” of Laban organization trained over 40 youth from the different neighborhoods that took part in the auditions and 15 were selected to become part of the troupe. The playback theatre troupe will undergo an intensified training program for two and a half months and will be ready to perform in early November 2017.
In addition to bringing together youth from different neighborhoods, the theatre troupe will offer a platform for the local residents to vent their troubles and negative past experiences.
What is playback theater?
The youth of Tripoli lack common spaces for dialogue. In addition to that, most media hasn’t played a positive role in shedding light on Tripoli’s locals and their experiences; they have, instead, focused on stereotyping the communities and fueling the conflict. This is why most Tripolitans state their need for free spaces to talk, participate in open dialogues and express their concerns out loud.
Hani Rustom, co-founder of SADA troupe for Playback Theater, said, “All the barriers of sharing intimate and personal stories that might have a traumatic background have been shattered through this practice.” He added, “Playback Theater impacts the participants of the training (potential Playbackers) on different levels; it opens the space for the trainees to share and speak out painful past experiences through practicing their own stories during the training sessions. Also, acting out the stories physically is stress relieving and freeing, given the trauma our bodies endure in times of fear and violence. Finally, Playback Theater helps in healing and restoring social stability by initiating community support by opening the space to the community member to share, express and empathize with others after attending the performances.
The playback theater troupe in Tripoli uses playback theater as a unique way of addressing the community issues through art.
After many workshops, the troupe –supported by UNDP- will strive to impact the resilience of the communities and their likelihood of cooperation and joining efforts to struggle for issues of mutual concern. This will enable the Lebanese Tripolitan community to challenge stereotypes and promote social stability.
The troupe aims to increase awareness, among the residents, on the underlying social and political conditions that led to hostilities and armed conflict. The troupe will also train more youth from Tripoli on playback theater in the coming phase. It hopes to equip them with the necessary tools and techniques to advance peace efforts and discuss ways to resolve and resist conflicts.