Shakespeare in the Zaatari Camp

08 March 2014

In the Zaatari camp, that hosts thousands of refugees on the Syria-Jordan border, a tent stands out for its remarkable name and activity: The Shakespeare in Zaatari tent, in which Syrian actor Nawar Bulbul organizes workshops and initiatives around the life and work of English playwright William Shakespeare. 

Hamlet and King Lear are some of the plays Bulbul has been working on with the children of Zaatari, who rehearse in the camp on a daily basis. They will both be performed on March 27, in celebration of World Theater Day

The project is an independent one, as the organizers refuse to be influenced by any party or for-profit organization. All the props and elements used on stage are remnants from the camp. 

Aside from the plays, Shakespeare' s tent is involved in several other initiatives, such as a song planned for June 21, the World Music Day, when all Syrians throughout the Zaatari camp will sing as one.

Their work constitutes an effort to attract the world’s attention to the situation of Syrians, who seem to have been abandoned by the international community. It is also a tool to give Syrian children a voice and a channel to express themselves through universal values. A way to heal, after having become the regime's main target since the beginning of the uprising, in March 2011.

“We want to remind the world that Syrians took to the streets to demand their freedom,” an activist involved in the Shakespeare tent's activities said to Syria Untold. “We also want to send a clear message: leave the children out of adults' issues. Let’s allow our children to stay children, let them play, let them laugh.”

Through their work, Bulbul and the children of Zaatari have managed to produce art from the heart of grief and loss. Through Shakespeare's universal messages, they highlight the nature of the Syrian struggle for freedom, justice and a the right to live in dignity.

If theater, as Brett Bailey said, in his Message of World Theatre Day 2014, “has the power to provide a  clear a space in the hearts and minds of society, to gather people around us, to inspire, enchant and inform, and to create a world of hope and open-hearted collaboration,” then Syrians need this power more than ever.

Follow the Shakespeare in Zaatari projects on Facebook.

Children study their scripts in the Shakespeare in Zaatari tent. Source: Shakespeare in Zaatari's facebook page
Children study their scripts in the Shakespeare in Zaatari tent. Source: Shakespeare in Zaatari's facebook page

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad