Students at the West Bank’s first and only drama school talk about their struggle to establish a theatre in the West Bank and their desire to change society for the better through theatre. Ulrike Schleicher spoke to three of them
When Palestinian Malak Abu Gharbia was 12 years old, she met the famous Syrian actor and comedian Doraid Lahham after a theatre performance. “He asked whether I wanted to become an actress one day too,” says Malak, who is now 20 years old. “I wasn’t able to say a single word.” Since the encounter, film and theatre have been part of her life. She soaked up everything that had anything to do with them, read plays and went to see performances whenever possible.
For the past half year, Malak has been able to live out her passion: she is studying acting at the theatre academy in Ramallah in the West Bank. Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was one of her first roles.
Malak, who was born in Jerusalem, learns various acting techniques such as improvisation as well as singing, fencing and pantomime five days a week. She also trains her voice and rehearses. Although the academy is the first and only acting school in the West Bank, her training is no different to what she would receive in Europe.
The academy was founded in 2009 with the help of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, Germany. The teachers there advise the staff at the Ramallah academy and are helping them to build what will in future be a state-approved college. Exchanges and guest performances are part of the cooperation.
So far, the lion’s share of funding has come from Germany, but the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah would also like to contribute in the future. Speaking at the opening of the academy in 2009, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said that the academy is helping to maintain the history, heritage and culture of Palestine.