In 2011, Leish Troupe decided to stop working. To do that for almost five years was indeed a difficult choice; but it wasn’t going to be as difficult as performing in the midst of violence.
Many Syrian artists made the same choice right away. Those painters, actors, directors, scenographers, musicians, video-artists, dancers and choreographers decided to stay in their country despite always having the option and the opportunity to leave.
As artists in the middle of war, we had –and still have- three choices: One is to be prejudiced to one party and employ art in an armed-conflict, which would eventually result into nothing but more violence.
Two, is to vividly portray the cruel reality without taking a step away from the painful everyday details; which would lead into mere drainage.
And the third choice would be to deny the reality, keep working as if nothing is going on, and thus art art will loose it’s sole purpose.
In time of war, art’s role is neither methodized with theories nor framed with rules; it is a result of conscious choices. The variation of these choices can be seen today on Syria’s stages and alternative places. The chosen roles of today’s performances can be as various as propagandist, realist (in very extreme and direct ways that respond to ugliness with more ugliness), or majorly ideological. Artistic choices would follow those intended roles to include lyrical musicals, Event-related, hyperbolically realist, or political performances whose audience is limited. On the other hand, some performances chose to stay true to the role of art: ask people to plant hope in their souls, even in the darkest times, to show them beauty in this ugly context, and use it to recharge their energy when all other motivations disappear. It helps them realize the connection, that link that connects each of them with every other human in the world, even when they are lonely, forgotten and abandoned; art will urge them to overcome disability, be on top of their everyday life, and carry on. And we chose for our art to have such role.
Art cannot stop the wheel of violence from spinning, but it can showcase other spaces outside that wheel, the spaces that keep existing no matter how long the violence remains or expands. It can also dispel the fear of others, or at least shake the foundations upon which this fear is built; and eventually narrow the distance between parties in conflict, and address the essence of a human being without diminishing a complex individual to a narrow vision that denies their diversity and readiness to change.
As we see it now, our role would be to redirect, not release, the violent energy of anger and indignation, resulting in actions that do not include murder, destruction, elimination or rejection. We see our work as a means to survive our way through ordeals, accept loss, understand the essence of death, and the real value of life.
With its energy that bears thought, sense and beauty; art can achieve what others cannot, as its main aim is to shake solid conceptions, revive hidden feelings, and to open up as much as possible, and as deeply as possible, to the human and life.
Yes…The audience of theatre and live performances in Syria is increasing not only because people need a cleansing relief from the non-stop daily stress they live under; but also because they now, more than ever, need to experience social and human intimacy, and have a sense of affiliation.
Workshops, rehearsals, and performances are the very few and real spaces available to us where we can highlight what performers share with audience members, and what audience members share among themselves, taking into consideration our different (political) views of the war we all live in, and sharing the hope of seeing it come to end.
War has taught us to appreciate life, and if art cannot make the change, we understand that it will at least change the angle we see life from.Here and now, we believe that we can take a step closer to what we need to do as a society when the war is over. Whether the military battle is meant to end, continue, or be replaced by a peaceful political settlement; the Syrians will always be together, and no party will ever be able to erase the others. To work on coexistence and sharing is inevitable, as we simply have no other choice.