Checkpoints, Teaching Theatre in Conflict Zones

(This post is part of the 2014 TCG National Conference: Crossing Borders {Art | People} blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich.)

"I am at Gate C 63.

In the International Terminal at Newark Airport.

New York to Dubai

and from Dubai to Iraq.

The invitation to Iraq comes to Theatre Without Borders on a Wednesday afternoon. They need a Western theatre artist to come immediately to be one of the judges at a festival of theatre from all parts of the Arab World. Passports, visas, plane tickets have to be quickly arranged. Should I go?

Close friends, family and the U.S. State department say NO.

“The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Iraq given the security situation. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous.”

But I remember a desperate protest the night before George W. Bush gave the order to bomb Baghdad. I was on the Los Angeles streets with my children and hundreds of other sorrowful Americans wanting to bring some last minute sense to the power machine in Washington, cars honking, Republicans spitting at us. Later that night at approximately 05:30 Iraqi time or about 90 minutes after the lapse of the 48-hour deadline, explosions were heard in Baghdad.

Since then I have had a strong desire to enact some kind of a symbolic apology to ease a personal national shame for what my government did to Iraq over the course of two invasions, two occupations, and two wars. I didn’t ever I that imagine that art would give me the opportunity to take a small step to mend the footprint. But here it is."

Read the full article on TCG website

Jessica Litwak, MFA, RDT, PhD Candidate, is a playwright, an educator, an actor, and an activist. Among other things, she is a core member and on the steering committee of Theatre Without Borders (OTM member) and co-leads Artist Distress Services for freeDimensional.