by Radwan Taleb

There is nothing static about the Sabunkaran theatre group, except for its continuity! With all the changes in the team, all the challenges we undertook to create a multi-cultural group, and all the obstacles that come our way, I myself cannot believe that we are five years old, and that we have done seven productions! What I really want to talk about, however, is not this, but the matter of sustainability, the future of our team.

The show is over. We celebrate by eating loads of (diverse) food accompanied by self-proclaimed German beer. Someone might ask: »So, what do we do next?« or might simply not. And it’s over. Everyone goes back to their own life, until a message from me pops up on their phones: »We’ll be rehearsing soon.« Or: »Stefan is coming.« The latter means that the actors will be paid, which increases their already-ignited excitement for theatre, paid or not.

Alright! Given all of that, how is this team to continue? This, for me, has been the most pressing question since the last show. So, I put all other questions aside. At the beginning of 2020, I set out to attempt answering that question by launching a series of workshops with some of our ‘veterans’ in addition to new others who are excited to work with us. The number exceeded 20 participants, as I didn’t target only actors for the opening workshop, but anyone interested in theatre: writers, musicians, actors, directors, and even technicians. Of course, we did not end up having the wide spectrum we hoped for, but we had a good start.

© Sabunkaran Theatre Group

Everyone was stunned, at the beginning of the workshop, to hear that I was not there to »teach them«. My aim, as the group’s manager, was for everyone to meet and network. Workshop after workshop, I kept pushing in one direction: »Do not wait for someone to come and direct a play for you, make your own. Present your ideas and we will work on turning them into projects and performances.« The first and second workshops were one month apart, but the rest were held fortnightly by demand of the participants who found this new mechanism very appealing and exciting. They kept requesting more days, more hours, but I told them that the fourth would be the last. Before the end of that last workshop, a small team already formed and started rehearsing a play by Khalil Gibran. By that time, too, I had already encouraged another group to think about street theatre, and they were now discussing the potential short performances they could create. The third product of these workshops was planning a cooperation between our group and a university in Sulaimaniya, where three of our participants/students present short plays in English.

All those projects were due to be accomplished by the beginning of summer 2020, where we would gather again to rehearse and premier a play directed by me, then meet once again with Stefan and Paolo in the fall. This would have allowed us to have full program for the year if it weren’t for ‘Corona’. But we know that Corona will be gone, sooner or later, and we will come back with even more enthusiasm.

After the workshops, I told Father Jens, Head of Deir Maryam Al-Adhra: »I will turn this group into a foundation. This way, it will survive the forever-shifting circumstances and outlive its ever-changing team.« Father Jens himself has beautiful dreams, and he started actually planning to realize one: Building our theatre! The Sabunkaran Theatre House! I, too, started dreaming with him… an independent theatre! A theatre foundation! A platform for artists…

Why not? Don’t all the great things start with a dream?!

Radwan Taleb is a writer, actor and theatre director from Syria. Since 2016 he has been the artistic director of the Sabunkaran Theatre Group.

(Translated into English by Atyaf Mahdi)

© Sabunkaran Theatre Group