Clowns Without Borders returns to Egypt in partnership with The Nadha Arts School for Social Theatre (NAS). The program will start with an intensive for Egyptian physical theatre artists. The team will then create and tour a street show for street children, refugees, and internally displaced people.
UNHCR reports, “Egypt hosts more than 270,000 registered asylum-seekers and refugees from 65 countries. The majority are from Syria, followed by Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia.”
In Egypt, the majority of refugees are concentrated in urban areas, such as Cairo and Alexandria. Even before COVID-19, rising inflation, unemployment, and economic instability increased the vulnerability of both refugees and host communities. As more and more people in Egypt struggle to cover basic needs, violence and xenophobia increase.
Egypt sources 80% of its wheat from Russia. According the The Guardian,
“The ripple effects of the war include food price inflation, higher interest rates and a devalued currency.”
“We are not using art to deliver messages inundated with human rights issues. Our message is simply joy of art”
The Nahda Arts School for Social Theatre (NAS) aims at enhancing local communities through performances on streets and squares across Egypt’s villages and towns. CWB is delighted to work with NAS alumni to create an original performance to tour throughout Cairo. NAS operates under the El-Nahda Association for Scientific and Cultural Renaissance of Jesuit Cairo.
CWB will lead an intensive for alumni of Nahda Arts School for Social Theatre (NAS). This workshop will be the foundation of a show creation, which the ensemble of Egyptian and American clowns will perform on the streets of Cairo. The team will perform for street children, refugees, and Internally Displaced People. Due to the nature of street shows, the performances are also open to the public.
Mostafa Wafi and Reham Ramzi, founder of NAS are leading the project coordination of the team, including the selection of 3 additional Egyptian artists. David Lichtenstein, Robin Lara, and Hannah Gaff will be representing CWB-USA and leading an intensive.
*Photo of Hannah Gaff in Lebanon in 2017, in collaboration with Clown Me In
One of the most important planning moments of a CWB program is artist selection. For this program in Egypt, CWB Executive Director, Naomi Shafer and Reham Ramzy, co-founder of Nadha Arts School for Social Theatre discussed some of the key competencies needed for this program. A key element of the program is street performing, and Reham warned me,
The streets of Cairo are exciting, and already have a theatricality about them. At any moment there may be someone biking through a crowd of people while balancing a huge tray of bread on his head. So the clowns have to compete with that!
Street performing takes a special type of performer, one who is bold and engaging, but also one who can read a crowd. It takes incredible generosity, and also heightened awareness. David Lichtenstein and Robin Lara bring exceptional street performing experience. From lasso, to whips, to juggling knives, to unicycles, to a giant balloon, these two have so many tricks up their sleeves.
In addition to performing, a key piece of this program is teaching a group of NAS alumni who want to explore clowning and street theatre. Hannah Gaff, who just completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Cairo, will be leading the workshop portion of this tour. Hannah’s company Clown Corps specializes in teaching the key elements of social clowning.
CWB couldn’t be more excited about this group of artists. We can’t wait to share bios about the 4 Egyptian artists who will be joining us next week.
David Lichtenstein is a founding member of Clowns Without Borders and has performed with CWB – USA in The Balkans, Colombia, Haiti, Palestine, and Mexico.He has been a professional performer specializing in street, clown, and variety theater for over 25 years. He has performed his one-person Leapin’ Louie Comedy Show at festivals, theaters, and other events in 28 different countries across five continents.
Photos: David Lichtenstein performs with CWB on the Balkan Route, 2019. Photo by Michiel Crijns
Hannah Gaff has performed and taught with with CWB in Colombia and Lebanon. She is a theatre creator, therapeutic clown, movement director and teaching artist based in San Francisco. She is a 2021 Fulbright Scholar at the Egyptian Academy of Arts in Cairo and holds a MFA in ensemble-based physical theatre from Dell’Arte International.
Photos: Hannah Gaff performs with CWB in Lebanon, 2017. Photo by Clown Me In
Robin Lara has performed with Clowns Without Borders in Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, and Zimbabwe. She is an award-winning clowns and circus artist, whose street show is a staple Pier 39 in San Francisco. Robin has worked with Circus Maximus, Velocity Circus, Wooden Nickle Circus and many more.
Photos: Robin Lara performs with CWB in Zimbabwe, 2019. Photo by Clowns Without Borders.