Teach Play Love: Remote theatre to build a sense of global belonging – Amal Mukhairez (Gaza)

Amal is the creator of remote theatre, and one of the longest-standing volunteers on the Hands Up Project. She created a piece of remote theatre by accident as she thought it was necessary to perform entirely on Zoom, and later they made it a rule that the children couldn’t move outside the screen or edit the video.

Gaza has been under siege for nearly 15 years. It has a huge impact on everybody’s daily life, wellbeing, learning and sense of belonging in the whole world. The learners have no problem with a sense of belonging to their country and community, but what about the whole world?

Global belonging

A lovely term that Amal created

Students lack motivation. They feel that the world is deaf to them, that nobody is paying attention to them. This makes the work of the teachers very challenging. If they feel there’s no connection with the world, they don’t see the point of learning English, the language of the world. This meant the teachers wanted to find innovative ways to push the students towards learning and give them a reason to learn. Remote theatre seemed to be the way to do this.

What is remote theatre?

A short script that is created by students. They then rehearse it, and perform it live on facebook or YouTube to a global audience. It can be performed at conferences, at a literature festival, at schools or at universities.

If you’d like to read some of these plays and use them with your students, you can buy the books from the Hands Up Project shop.

Another way that they have run these projects is linking groups of learners from different countries to create plays together, meeting via Zoom to write and rehearse.

If you’d like to watch an example of one of these plays, take a look at the Hands Up Project YouTube channel. For example, this one from Czechia and Palestine:

How does remote theatre build a sense of global belonging?

  • Plays with global themes, e.g. pollution, refugees, bullying
  • Students and teachers conversations during the rehearsals – they work hard to communicate in English to say what they want to say, and this process really helped the students to learn, not just language, but respecting each other’s opinions, listening to each other, understanding different accents of English
  • Finding a global online audience to perform the play for – this creates a connection with the outside world, as the students can’t travel outside Gaza
  • After the play there is a lot more – discussions, what happened in the play, what experiences they had while practicing. For example: How do you feel when you’re acting?

COVID was an excellent opportunity to do lots of collaboration globally (though Hands Up have been doing this for many years).

Students don’t just learn the language because there’s going to be a test at the end of the semester. They learn because they’re motivated to communicate.

The Hands Up Project provides a safe channel to do this.

Students wanted to share their thoughts about the project, and we saw a video of them telling us in Arabic about what they got out of it: friends in other countries, people hearing their voice and caring about their talent, support from teachers and students, learning about other cultures and religions, noticing that their are points in common between their different cultures, becoming more aware of people around the world.

In 2019, Hands Up won the ELTon award for starting the play-writing competition.

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