Conducting a Theatre Workshop for Syrian Refugees at Berlin’s Tempelhof Center

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Alexander’s work with these three youths as well as others began in late winter 2016, when he worked with them and the assistance of Raghda, a translator, using theatre as a tool to address their issues, their lives, their escape to Germany, and their dreams. To them, Alexander is more than a theatre facilitator; he is a mentor, a big brother, and a bridge between them and the German community.

On our first day, one of them, Mohammed, told me his story. He made several attempts to journey from Turkey to Greece on a floating boat, being stopped by the coast guard twice before finally succeeding and walking the rest of the way to Germany. Abed was luckier, arriving in Greece after only one attempt. Odai was detained and tortured in Syria before he decided to run away. Alexander then joined us, accompanied by three Germans who were curious to meet and support these three youths. I felt that it would not be comfortable to conduct a workshop with three participants and four observers, so I decided to include everyone in the room in the workshop, including Raghda, the translator. The Germans took off their shoes and we all stood in a circle.

I began by asking everyone in the circle to breathe, to hum, and to make small movements, establishing a basic human connection. I then put on music and asked each of the refugees to re-live and re-embody fractions of their memories. They saw images of their homes in Syria. At this point, I felt that they were ready to go deeper and asked them to imagine that the hall we were in was a boat that they must struggle to keep in balance. They felt like they were in the middle of the sea, on a boat about to capsize, and coastal guards were within sight but offering no. They began to call out, “Help me! Help me!”

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