Musical Director in Ritsona, a Syrian Refugee Camp
I’m thrilled to share with you that I've been offered a summer position as a musical director in the Ritsona Refugee Camp in Greece for displaced people, mostly of Syrian-Kurdish origins, with the I Am You organization.
Working alongside established U.S. and Syrian film, tv, and Broadway actors, directors, producers, and composers, I’ll direct the refugees and the actors for the musical accompaniment to a multi-lingual production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’m also excited to listen to the peoples' stories, volunteer in the camp teaching English, and give my time and skills where needed.
My work there runs from July 22 - August 4 and I'll be in Greece for a few days afterwards. If you have any suggestions on places/people/things in and around Athens, reply to this email and let me know!
The following photos and artworks are from the Ritsona Kingdom Journal, a magazine created by the displaced youth at Ritsona. It breaks my heart to read and see these, but it also inspires me to be there.
It reminds me...
When I was younger, I performed in the children's opera Brundibár with the Washington Opera. The opera was secretly written about victory over evil in the Nazi-run Jewish ghetto and concentration camp Terezín AKA Theresienstadt in the former Czechoslovakia. This ghetto was known for its population of artists, composers, writers, and more, and when the Nazis discovered the opera, they decided to use it as propaganda for the Red Cross' visit. The Nazis opened cafes and gave the children milk and wooden toys and planted flowers. Many children performed for the SS officers and the Red Cross, and most of them were shipped off to gas chambers at Auschwitz soon afterwards. Ela Weissberger, who played the role of the cat, survived. She came to speak with us kids at the Washington Opera. I played her same role - the cat - and I had a moment to hold her hand and bring her up to the stage at our performance. Here's an article in the Washington Post about our production.
Ritsona and Terezín are very different, yet similar in some respects.
What challenges me about the art programs at Ritsona are the questions - is this art therapy? Is this an opportunity for youth and adults to make friends, develop skills, and have an outlet to process their emotions? Or, is it a cover up that makes their living situation a little bit bearable even though they yearn to leave the makeshift camps in the woods where they live indefinitely and finally live a safe and peaceful life?
From reading the youth's words in the Ritsona Kingdom Journal, I think it's the former. Art is a place for them to have hope within themselves, make friends, and let their voices be heard.
From the Ritsona Kingdom Journal: