Interview: Ailin from Theatre Temoin

I bumped into Ailin at some party somewhere in Kigali and, after briefly being accosted by her with a fairly accurate Scottish accent (accurate for a Californian) I learned a bit about her theatre project here and wanted to share it. So… here’s what she’s up to:

Well hello there, who are you?

I’m a London-based theatre director originally from California. I’m the artistic director of Theatre Temoin, a company dedicated to international collaborations in the creation of new works of physical theatre that are daring, socially engaged, and fun.

What are you doing in Rwanda?

I a currently working with a team of 3 other theatre facilitators and a group of 30 recently demobilized child soldiers at the Child Rehabilitation Center in Musanze to devise a play about the boys’ experiences, and their hopes and concerns about reintegration and return. The piece will be performed at Ishyo Arts Center in Kigali on April 27th at 7pm.

What gave you the idea to work on a project like this?

With the support of the Mary Elvira Stevens Travelling Fellowship, I am spending 2011/2012 running a series of theatre projects with ex-combatants around the theme of homecoming and return. I first became interested in the subject when I was in London creating “Nobody’s Home,” a modern retelling of the Odyssey which used the Odysseus story (of the long “fight to get home” after war) as a framework for exploring post-war trauma and soldiers’ homecomings. The piece toured to the USA in 2010, and as part of this tour we ran workshops with US Vietnam-war Vets. These workshops were an incredible experience for all of us, and I decided to dedicate more time to the subject.

Why did you choose Rwanda as one of your destinations?

I had been to Rwanda in 2009 to devise a theatre piece, “Ni Ibya Buri Wese,” with a group young theatre artists from Never Again Rwanda’s semi-professional troupe One Family. I fell in love with Rwanda and knew it would be an incredible experience to come back and work with ex-combatants who had a different perspective and narrative than the one I connected with when I came in 2009.

What has the reaction been of the Rwandans you’re working with to the world of theatre?

The boys love it. They are also natural performers. We’ve found that the theatre is a place that they can truly “play” with their deepest hopes and fears about the incredible journey of transition that lies ahead of them. I once had a clown teacher who told me, “play your imbalances, so that they don’t play you.” The Musanze boys are teaching me that the same can be said of trauma and fear: “Play your fears, so that your fears cannot play you.”

How has working on this project impacted you?

I think the lasting impression that I have come away with is the incredible joy, hope, and youthful playfulness that these boys embody. With Kony and all of the internet campaigns going viral these days, we are inundated with images of misery and despair, and “child soldier” is a term that tends to drum up a lot of angst and pity. These boys don’t need pity. They need a platform, a stage to shine upon. They are joyful, truly joyful, like all children. They are children. They are boys. And I hold great hopes for their future.

What are you hoping to accomplish during your time in Rwanda?

To make some friends, to learn something new, to surprise some people, to build bridges.

Is there any way for interested volunteers to get involved with you on your project?

Come see the show! It’s free, and sharing it is the entire point of the work. And spread the word to as many people as you can. 🙂 Aside from that, there’s a day of workshops between the Musanze boys and the Never Again Youth Clubs on April 28th, and also an associated debate about art and reconcilliation on June 28th, the best person to contact if you want to be involved in either of those is Ariane Zaytzeff at ariane.zaytzeff@gmail.com.

Are you funding the project on your own or supported by an organisation?

The play itself is funded by the American Embassy, and is receiving generous in-kind support from the RDRC, Ishyo Arts, and the French Embassy. The workshop day and a video of the process are being funded by generous friends and private supporters, if you’d like to help out visit our Kickstarter page.

You’re working in various other countries as well… what’s connecting the idea behind this?

The honest truth is I picked countries I had collaborators in and knew I wanted to work in. I picked Lebanon because I’ve been trying to get out there for a long time and there is a rich history of art and conflict there, so it seemed to fit. Since I was going to Lebanon, I thought I should go to Israel as well, to really dive into the heart of a project that is – at its heart – about synthesizing and reconciling competing narratives. Rwanda I picked based more on my history of work with genocide survivors here, and the idea that I’d be coming this time to work with former FDLR, so again, working to integrate different perspectives.

What will the finished product look like?

The finished product here will be the performance at Ishyo. In terms of the overarching “product,” I’m working with a playwright who will be synthesizing my experiences this year into a play which my company will stage in London in 2013. But I think that in a way, that’s more of a 5th project than a culmination of the other four. Each individual project carries its own weight, and each will affect my future work for many years to come.

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.