Every few months, we like to blog about our esteemed grantees, the organizations that are successfully using games and play not only to teach negotiation in the classroom but who are out in the wider world applying this powerful medium to truly relevant conflict situations.
So this month I would like to introduce my readers to Joanna Sherman and Michael McGuigan at Bond Street Theatre, a highly respected and also very innovative theater company with roots in New York City but now running projects all over the world. Bond Street was founded in 1980 and is an NGO in association with the United Nations. Like RGI, they are passionate about applying fun to serious conflict and making a difference in the world. Their mission is to promote peace and mutual understanding through the arts, and they have established theatre-based programs in over 40 countries.
The project that we are supporting this year is in Malaysia, which is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. Displaced people are therefore highly vulnerable and the target of much xenophobic conflict and violence. But Bond Street seeks to reach these communities through its young people, by means of the playful world of street theater.
Just as they have in other countries, BST works first to establish local partners that can take over follow up and implementation once their six week intensive program is over. For their focus is long term, with the games and play just a beginning of a longer process of reconciliation between refugees and the local population.
In that first phase, however, trained actors from New York work with participants, drawn from both the refugee and the host communities, to develop and enact scripted and unscripted theater, done in the street, in real time, a process that truly draws people together. And the results of this are presented formally at the end of four weeks, to local audiences as large as 2000 people…