The well-known Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous once described theater as the first and last resort in life. Nawwar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor, is putting that wisdom into practice through his production of “King Lear” and other Shakespearean classics in the unexpected shelter of the Shakespeare Tent, now a fixture of Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp.
Bulbul says that psychologically and morally, theater is a way “to bring back laughter, joy, and humanity.” And despite extremely limited resources, he has helped eighty small and dedicated performers and singers find a public voice and platform from which to speak to the world.
“We want to tell people we are not hypocrites or terrorists”, one of the actors replied when asked what message their performance carried. Other children have seized on the chance to express their lost talents and escape their surroundings to a beautiful world. Bushra al-Homeyid, 13, who played one of Lear’s daughters, said she liked “that I can change my personality and be someone else.”
Parents too see in the Shakespeare tent a chance for positive resilience, especially since Bulbul makes attending rehearsals conditional on the actors’ also going to school. Because of this, Hatem Azzam, father of 12-year-old Rowan who played another of Lear’s daughters, relaxed his normal prohibition on letting his children wander through the camp to allow Rowan join her peers in the bard’s tent.
The group’s inaugural performance on World Theater Day brought down the house–and tears to the eyes of some of the leading girls. “They were overwhelmed [because] no one has ever clapped for them,” Bulbul says. Thanks their shared efforts, that applause promises to be only the first wave of many more ovations still to come.
For more info – The Shakespeare Tent on Facebook