Michael Riordon

the view from where I live

Daana: We have a gift

Fans turn lazily over an unfurnished room carpeted in grey. With a high ceiling, it’s an airy, open space for imagination to bloom. Present are two women and six men, in their late teens to early twenties. The men wear t-shirts and loose pants, one woman a black head-covering and long, tailored robe, the other a rumpled orange tracksuit with white stripes. All are barefoot.

They wait in varying degrees of restless motion. In mid-Ramadan they’ve been fasting since daybreak, and today in Jenin it’s close to forty degrees. Sweat slides down my back, and I’m just watching.

Two acting teachers from Sweden enter quietly, Beatriz and Jan, also barefoot, probably in their fifties, wiry and smiling. When I ask permission to observe and record the class, Jan replies, appropriately, “We will ask the students.” With a word – naam, yes – or a nod and a smile at me, they consent.

The class begins…

….During the break, I chat with a few students who speak some English. One man tells me he has an internet friend in Canada. “I can live with the Israelis,” he says, “no problem. If only they would live with us.”

In the few minutes left before class resumes, a young woman in a rumpled orange tracksuit agrees to a quick interview. We sit on the stone balcony, a light breeze soft and pleasant on the face.

Born here in 1989, Daana came to the school after she saw a girlfriend perform at the Freedom Theatre. Soon she landed her first role, as the Juliet of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers. The Freedom Theatre mixes Palestinian plays with international fare, translated into Arabic and adapted to local realities. It’s not hard to imagine the relevance here of a play about young lovers undone by the furies of hatred.

I asked her what she hopes to accomplish in the Freedom Theatre.