Verbatim Theatre Project, Alrowwad Centre, Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, Palestine. Monday 10 July 2017

by ray goodlass

Good progress today, in that I was able to audition and cast the two leads. It was good too that I had four student actors to choose from. These two will play the hosts of the TV interview show that provides the framework for our verbatim theatre. So for the moment they are the ‘leads’, but as the rest of the cast firm up their stories some of them may of course become the leads.

The rest of today’s session  was fine, though as ever, any new exercise or gamed is difficult to introduce because the students either don’t listen fully to the instructions, don’t understand them (probably my fault), or want to argue with their class mates about their particular interpretation of how the exercise should be done.

But we persevere, and as always, once the exercise has been learnt it goes swimmingly. In fact today they breezed through previously learnt exercises with only the briefest of introductions from me in English, as our interpreter was not present.  I was very proud of them!

Also today I finished my outline of the play/film’s scenario, and emailed it to Ahmed, who is both my interpreter and Alrowwad’s theatre teacher, who will have it translated into Arabic for the other staff, such as Isa, the film teacher/director, who have very little English.

Here it is, pasted from my Word original, which has thrown the formatting somewhat, but I think it is clear enough. Please keep in mind that it has been written for people who have as rough idea about what we are doing.


Basic Scenario

·       The play, which will also be filmed, will be a staged TV interview documentary in which the hosts interview studio guests about how they came to be living in the Aida Refugee Camp as descendants of the Nakba, and how they feel about it.

·       There will be a cast member supposedly filming it to give the audience the impression that it is a real TV program BUT the whole thing, audience included, will be filmed as our film version of the project. Those cameras will be behind and/or to the side of the audience.

·       All of the play and the actors’ lines will be tightly scripted, though the audience should feel as though the guests’ answers are spontaneous.

·       The guests’ answers may be either long stories, short ones, or short answers to specific questions from the hosts, e.g. “What is a bad day for you?”

·       In post-production sub-titles will be added to translate the Arabic answers given by the guests.

·       During the performance the hosts’ lines, which will be in English, will be translated into Arabic on a screen above or to the side of the stage. This will be easy to do as the lines will be scripted and so known in advance. We can fake a simultaneous translation so it looks as though the guests are getting the questions in Arabic (e.g. they wear an earpiece?)


·       Two hosts (one male, one female).

·       The studio guests, that is, the rest of the cast. They are the ones who tell the stories, answer the hosts’ questions.

·       One camera operator (as part of the play, not the film crew.

Stage Crew

·       Lighting crew, to make it look like a TV show is being filmed

·       Sound crew (for the TV show’s theme music, also general music before the play starts. Not much needed, just someone to put it to together and operate the sound desk.

·       Costume crew (not much needed)

·       Stage design and Set Construction: just a basic TV studio interview set up. We can use stuff that Alrowwad already has.

Front of House

Just to bring the audience in. I don’t expect we will be selling tickets.

Film Crew

·       Camera crew

·       Audio crew, to make sure we get good sound quality

·       Post production team.

·       Will we need a separate lighting crew?

The Plot

This will need amending as the play develops and the actors improve, but basically:

·       Hosts introduce show

·       Hosts ask the studio guests how they came to be in the camp (to get some Nakba stories)

·       Hosts ask what life is like in the camp (to get some personal but general stories)

·       Hosts ask a series of very specific questions to get very specific answers, such as What is an unusual day for you, a bad day, what are your ambitions, what are the obstacles in the way of your ambitions etc.

·       Hosts asks the guests if they have any questions. This is when the hosts can get to tell their stories, if they have them.

·       Possibly we may have one or two of the guests ‘dance’ or mime their story.

·       Hosts them wrap up, thank the guests etc. The Wrap Up should include a summary of what the interviews have shown us about the ongoing consequences of the Nakba.