Saturday, August 22, 2009

International Theater Literacy Project in Tanzania 2009

I think I might have been the luckiest teaching artist on the planet this summer. I spent two weeks in Scotland on a teaching artist exchange with the Scottish Arts Council through Columbia College Chicago, and then I spent five weeks in Tanzania (East Africa) as part of a team of teaching artists with the International Theater Literacy Project, led by Marianna Houston, on an exchange via Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, Chicago, IL. Along with 7 other teaching artists, we were paired up to led a 2 1/2 week theater project with amazing young students from Nkoanrua and Akeri Secondary Schools, located outside of Arusha near Tengeru/Patandi.

Teaching poetry and theater in Tanzania was one of the most extraordinary teaching artist experiences of my life. I'll be writing about it in more formal ways, but for now I wanted to post some pictures of the process and the people, so that everyone can get a feel for the work. At some point, I plan to write more about our poetry writing process. One of the main poetic structures taught was the Pantoum -- not at all of African origins, but the circle structure worked so well for our play, and the students really got into it, writing both individual and collaborative poems shaped around questions that punctuated our performance piece. Who am I? One day, where shall I go?

After a week of writing and experimenting with theater structures, we produced a play called "The Four Karina's Ask Their Questions" - a coming of age play about a young girl whose questions lead her on a journey through a Forest of Mirrors, to a Monster of Lies, and a Community of Survivors of HIV, who help her understan complex issues surrounding health, sexuality, and relationships. We performed this play near Patandi Teachers College near Tengeru market with 3 other ensembles and a wonderful primary school -- St. Margaret's -- who performed a Midsummer Night's Dream -- amazing ITLP theater festival! We also performed this play at their secondary school. Extraordinary experience, every minute.

The theater festival was all about the dizzying joy of completing an artistic process in community. Incredible love and talent all around! Thanks to Lee Sunday Evans, my teaching partner, Julie Simpson, ED of Urban Gateways, Marianna Houston, of ITLP, and the MacArthur Foundation for making this experience possible for me. I am completely humbled and grateful for the opportunity. Much love to my students, too! I miss you!

I will post some of our students' wonderful poems soon. For now, enjoy these photos! For more information about the International Theater Literacy Project, check it out!