Friday, August 1, 2003

Weaving stories

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Twenty teenagers — 18 from Maine and two Palestinians from East Jerusalem — are still hard at work exploring themselves and weaving a Story Quilt, which they will perform at the Theater Project, in Brunswick, next weekend. At any price, it’s a must-see. Even better, it’s pay-what-you-want.

The show is the culmination of the Theater Project’s three-week teen theater camp, which for the past two years was a Shakespeare festival. This year, renamed the International Teen Festival, it took on an international flavor and included instruction by theater professionals from Poland and East Jerusalem, with classes in improvisation, storytelling, dance, and music. Theater Project mainstay Al Miller made the international connections, and fellow TP regular Barbara Truex composed music along the way.

They brought in Khitam Edelbi, a drama teacher with the Palestinian Counseling Center in East Jerusalem. Edelbi, who taught at last year’s teen camp, helps Palestinian teens write, develop, and perform theater pieces about their personal lives in East Jerusalem. Also joining the group in Brunswick was Robert Wyrod, who runs the "We are the World" Theater Company for orphaned teens and homeless adults in Cracow, Poland.

Wyrod was supposed to bring two of his students, as Edelbi did, but the US State Department’s terrorism sentries barred the way, freely allowing two Palestinian teens to come to the US, but preventing two Polish teens from doing the same. (Thanks for the help in Iraq, Poland!)

The 20 teens "get along beautifully," according to the Theater Project’s Frank Wicks. Any potential differences among them are "just no big deal," he said. "They’re having so much fun."

In the process of theater games and other exercises, the show is still in development. "I think they’re just exploring themselves," Wicks said. "They’re playing with ideas of their own personal stories."

Also, Wicks and Miller are looking for host families to sign up to house more international students next summer. Don’t miss the show, which is certain to be as unique a creation as are the people who are dreaming it up even now. "We’ll see what the kids come up with," Wicks said.

The show runs August 8 at 7:30 p.m., and August 9 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the Theater Project, in Brunswick. Call (207) 729-8584 to reserve tickets.