The Freedom Theater is the backdrop of this fascinating interview about art, performance, justice, and liberation in Jenin refugee camp and throughout Palestine.
Nabil Al Raee was born and raised in Aroub Refugee Camp in the Hebron hills of Palestine. He grew up during the First Intifada, trying to go to school between shootings, tear gas and curfew. In the 90s, Nabil joined Theatre Day Productions – a theatre company in Hebron working mainly with children and youth, and training actors. He finished his professional training there, and began training others for the next two years, also working throughout the West Bank as a musician and actor. Nabil then studied and worked in theatre first in Tunisia, and then in Europe, before returning to Palestine in 2006. At the invitation of Juliano Mer-Khamis, he joined the then-nascent Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp that Juliano had co-founded. There, he trained young actors and directed The Freedom Theatre’s first play “The Journey.” Following the success of the play, Nabil began full-time work at The Freedom Theatre, coordinating drama activities, and in 2009, became Director of their Theatre School, a professional theatre training program for young adults. After Juliano’s murder in 2011, Nabil stepped in as artistic director of the theatre, determined that Juliano’s work would continue. He has continued to build The Freedom Theatre towards its goal of being a leading artistic and political institution in Palestine and beyond. Nabil spoke on a panel at the Kennedy Center this past March, discussing the themes of conflict, refugees and theater.
Alia Alrosan lives in Nablus. She was the coordinator for the Freedom Bus project, and then decided to train as an actor. The Freedom Bus, is an initiative that uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout occupied Palestine and beyond. During Freedom Bus events, Palestinian actors and musicians invite true stories from rural communities across Palestine and subsequently transform each account into a piece of improvised theatre. Alia says that under occupation “our spirit has shrunk. But theater makes us appreciate life. Being really alive means making decisions about your life. I believe in humanity. I refuse to say that occupation is my only reality. This is the first time in my life I feel like I’m in the right place for me and my people.”