The British organization Good Chance Theatre set up a temporary theatre near a centre for asylum seekers in the porte de la Chapelle neighborhood of Paris. Migrants are welcome to participate in theater workshops, offering them a respite from the loneliness and administrative hurdles that shape their daily existence.
This temporary theatre has been packed since a British organization first set it up near a centre for asylum seekers in the porte de la Chapelle in a neighborhood in Paris in late January.
Professional artists lead workshops every day of the week (except for Sunday and Monday) for the asylum seekers living in the centre. This Wednesday, the participants were asked to ruminate on the theme of exile and to then make living paintings using puppets and boats made out of paper.
The scene with the boat took on particular significance for the participants, most of whom are Afghan and who came to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in a flimsy boat. While participating in the activity, 28-year-old Jan, who is originally from western Afghanistan, began to think about his own journey, in spite of himself.
“It made me a little bit sad, but it was beautiful,” he said.
Reappropriating their own stories
Edurne Rankin Garcia and Alvaro Morales Lifschitz, who are leading this week’s workshops, knew that this scene would make the participants emotional. These two artists, who are part of the Chilean company La Llave Maestra ("the master key”), wanted to provide participants with a gentle and poetic way to think about their struggles.
“Often, they repress what they lived through on their journey to France,” Alvaro says. “We try to help them to reappropriate their stories in a positive way.”
The different artists who work with Good Chance Theatre each week bring all kinds of art and activities to participants, including mimes, group games, movement and expression activities and music.
Dance, live band, and a room full of people from all over Paris and the world. This is the Hope of the Hope Show pic.twitter.com/4TCOD0bfq6— Good Chance Theatre (@GoodChanceCal) February 10, 2018
In each new workshop, Malang is always the first to participate. This 28-year-old Afghan somehow keeps smiling when he brings up all the struggles he has faced while attempting to claim asylum in France. For him-- as for many of the young men who come to the dome-- the theater provides a break from his daily life of boredom and frustration.
"We’ve gotten criticism from people who say that theatre isn’t a priority for people who don’t have housing or the proper paperwork,” says Joe Robertson, the artistic director of the project. “Of course, we all need food and clothing etc, but it’s also important to take a moment to think about who we are and to express ourselves.”
Another goal of this project is to highlight the strengths of each asylum seeker. The association invites all of the people living in the centre to take part in the workshops and demonstrate their talents.
On Saturday afternoon, the theater hosts the “Hope Show", a collaborative show built from workshops held during the week.
“It’s really a moment of sharing,” says Robertson. “Parisians are invited to participate in the show. We tell everyone, ‘if you want to read a poem or sing a song, then come with your text!’”
Venez voir, et si vous le désirez participer à, notre "Hope Show" chaque samedi à 15h30 au sein du théâtre Good Chance! #hopeshow #goodchanceparis #seemagichappen https://t.co/QDJFq2pZQB pic.twitter.com/V0eqvfjGNy— Good Chance Theatre (@GoodChanceCal) February 22, 2018
"Those who want to participate in the Hope Show on Saturday need to come back tomorrow because we are going to assign parts", says Edurne at the end of the workshop, while students are engaging in a joyous post-class brouhaha. Malang helps put away the chairs and pillows before leaving the dome with a few dance steps. On Saturday, he’ll be the first on stage.
>> > To address the Hope Show this Saturday, sign up at the address firstname.lastname@example.org
>> > On February 27 and 28, the Good Chance Theatre is partnering with the Paris International Fashion Academy. Participants in the workshops can collaborate with students to create clothing and costumes for the Hope Walk, a parade that will be held on March 10. If you are have a knack for sewing, styling hair or make-up or building sets, then sign up for a workshop by writing to the this address: email@example.com