The Return Project

2011/2012 – Lebanon, Israel, Rwanda, India; 2013 – U.K.

Project Director: Ailin Conant
In-Country Partners: Sabine Choucair, Nandita Dinesh, Orna Salinger, Ariane Zaytzeff
UK Playwright: Julia Pascal
Production Team: Samuel Julyan, Patrick Collier, Ags Irwin

We spent 2011 and 2012 working with groups of ex-soldiers in Rwanda, Lebanon, Israel and Kashmir on a series of 4 creative projects around the theme of reintegration and the return to civilian life. During this process, British playwright Julia Pascal worked in parallel to incorporate the experiences into a dynamic piece of new writing, Nineveh, which was developed for a 2013 production in the UK.

Press and Links:
‘Former Child Soldiers Enthral Drama Enthusiasts’ (The New Times, Rwanda)
‘Real Life War Stories Aren’t Very Heartwarming’ (VICE Magazine, UK)
‘A Stage for the Battle-Scarred to Tell their Tales’ (Times Higher Education, UK)
‘From the Mouths of Ex-soldiers onto the Stage’ (The New Internationalist, UK)
Project Blog

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Beirut: Sep. – Dec. 2011

Lead Collaborators: Assaad Chaftari, Ziad Saab, Mike Ayvazian, Charbel Aoun, Christina Foerch

We worked with a team of Ex-Fighter Peace Activists and Artists from Initiatives of Change and Permanent Peace Movement to develop a new play, A Drop of Honey, which is based on the stories and reflections of ex-fighters from the Lebanese Civil War, and their thoughts on the echoes of their experiences that they see in in Lebanese society today. A Drop of Honey was written for Lebanese High School and University students to perform and attend. The piece was mounted by a pilot group of students for the April 13th war commemoration activities at the Mixed Governmental School of Choueifat, and was directed by Mike Ayvazian. We later secured sponsorship for a long-term initiative to bring the piece to 20 schools throughout Lebanon over the next 2 years.

The develoment and continued touring of ‘A Drop of Honey’ have been generously supported by the Swiss Embassy in Lebanon.

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Tel Aviv: Jan. – Feb. 2012

Collaborators:  Orna Salinger, Natalie Fainstein, Yehuda Nahari, Gil Desiano, Yifot Shilo
Contributor:  Yariv Mozer (Text drawn from My First War, 2006 Video Documentary)

Working with Tel Aviv’s Karnamata Theatre Company, we collected stories from ex-combatants nationwide and edited them into an hour-long text, performed by an Israeli ensemble. The piece, Tachzor Shalem (“Come Back Whole”), was presented at the The Cameri Theatre; and was also performed as a free private reading at disabled veterans’ centre Beit Halochem for ex-fighters and their families.

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Jammu & Kashmir: June 2012

Lead Collaborator:  Nandita Dinesh

We spent the month working with youth affected by armed conflict in an orphanage outside of Srinagar. We also staged a devised performance at the Boy’s Government Degree College on the theme coming of age in occupied Kashmir.

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Musanze and Kigali: Mar. – Apr. 2012

Lead Collaborators:  Pacifique Ishimwe, Elizabeth Spackman, Ariane Zaytzeff
Actor-Devisors:  Musanze Child Rehabilitation Center Youth

Working with the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission‘s Child Rehabilitation Center in Musanze, we devised a piece with the Center’s 34 recently demobilized child soldiers around their experiences of reintegration and return to Rwanda. The piece, Hozwa Mwana w’u Rwanda, incorporated narrative storytelling and testimony, physical theatre, poetry, and traditional dance and drumming, and was presented at Ishyo Arts Center in Kigali.

‘Hozwa Mwana w’u Rwanda’ was generously supported by Ishyo Arts Center, The American and French Embassies in Rwanda, Positive Productions, Ivuka Arts, The Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, Sulfo Industries, and The Goethe Insititute.