6. From Rockets to Rehearsals: Girls Theatre Program in Sderot
by Sarah Bierman and Gina Hotz
“Every single person living in Sderot has his own unique experience and story to present and tell" is a key belief of Noam Bedein, the director of the Sderot Media Center, a non-profit organization whose main goal is to publicize to the world the story of life in Sderot - a story that is unknown or misunderstood by many people. Along with providing news and constant updates about the situation, Sderot Media Center is also responsible for creating numerous programs and social media projects that help citizens of Sderot on a daily basis.
One of these projects is a unique theater program, which was founded in order to provide Sderot teenage girls with a coping mechanism for dealing with the stress and trauma that has become a constant in their lives. Bedein says, “This theater project provides teenage girls with self-expressing media tools to express their human story of trauma through the arts of theater, acting out their story through a live diverse kind of audience.”
The theatre program has already produced a play, called Children of Kassam Avenue. It incorporates both the serious and comical aspects of Sderot life and features a hilariously entertaining Moroccan grandmother and the warning sirens of Kassam rockets, making it both sad and funny for audiences.
The first performance was in Sderot. Bedein said, “We basically invited professionals from the educational and psychological fields and heard from them how this was a successful process, seeing how the girls were able to express themselves and stand in front of an audience and just tell their story.”
Since then, the staff members of Sderot Media Center have been trying to publicize the play and find funds to bring it to the public. Aside from the performance in Sderot, the play was staged in Jerusalem, where only key people, including representatives from women’s organizations and community centers, were invited to view the production. Until the theater program can gain enough support and proper funding, the general public will not be able to see the play, but Bedein expresses high hopes for the future of the program. The Sderot Media Center has developed a six-month plan to tour all over Israel, and even to reach out to the Knesset, and eventually translate the play into English and perform it in the United States and England.
After their performances in both Sderot and Jerusalem, the positive therapeutic effects have been evident, Bedein said. "The girls loved the performance itself…. They had the opportunity to be presenting their story, their routine lives.” The project will allow the general public to understand what the girls have gone through because of the Kassam rockets. He added, "Even more exciting is hearing their principals and their teachers saying they cannot believe that just a year ago these girls were so in their own little environments and not really associated with society or really speaking out, and here they are speaking in front of a live audience and really expressing themselves.
Among the audience members at the performance in Jerusalem, the feedback was also extremely encouraging. “We invited the director of the Government Press Office, Danny Sieman, and he actually loved the show, which he thought was important to take to the Knesset,” said Bedein. “We did get good feedback, so our challenge now is taking this on the road around the country.”
One of the theater project's aims is to help publicize the human side of the Sderot story to people all around the world. Bedein emphasized that telling this story is an important tool in undermining the legitimacy that has been given to terror. He hopes that when audiences see the play, they will better understand that Sderot is the only place in western civilization under constant threat from rocket attacks, and become more aware of the trauma and suffering that has become a regular component of Sderot life.
Bedein added, “We desperately need people to take part of this as a non-profit, private organization. We are literally surviving financially just to keep our doors open. And for this theater production to keep on going, we definitely need the help of anyone that understands the importance of speaking up and sharing the story.” To find out more about the Sederot Media Center theatre program, visit www.sderotmedia.co.il
. To download an interview with Noam Bedein about the theatre program on Israel National Radio, click here.