The Stage is My Gun: The Cultural Intifada of Juliano Mer-Khamis
New York, Jenin, Ramallah 2011: A Global Uprising of Poetry, Music, and Theatre
Juliano did establish an acting school in Jenin—an admirable achievement—but after talking to Moe’men and Eyad it became clear that the school was only one step towards Juliano’s goal. According to them, Juliano called for a third intifada, but instead of guns and bombs, he wanted an uprising of “poetry, music, theatre, cameras, and magazines.”
As we talked, Batoul commented that theater is “always about politics,” but Moe’men added that the troupe wants “art in Palestine like there is art in Vienna, Italy, and America. We want to spread art everywhere.”
“The stage is our gun, and we have to fire specific shots. We have to tell people that they are responsible for what is happening onstage”
- Eyad Hourani
Juliano started The Freedom Theatre and its acting school. Now his students are creating their own theater with hope that as more students graduate from the school more theaters will be created. For Juliano it was not enough to create one theater, one acting school. The Freedom Theatre was the spark by which to ignite a cultural explosion, a diverse and modern Palestinian culture.
- Alice in Wonderland challenged both Israeli and Palestinian ideology as well as social issues such as gender and sexuality.
“The stage is our gun, and we have to fire specific shots. We have to tell people that they are responsible for what is happening onstage,” Eyad said.
“What do you want us to ask you?” Erin asked as the conversation drew to a close.
“How you can support us,” Eyad responded instantly.
“How can we support you?” Erin asked.
“Follow us,” Moe’men said simply. “Follow, and tell everyone that there are these Palestinians, and they want to create good art.”
Eyad added, “We are young, and we have the future.”
Eyad, Moe’men, Batoul, and Mariam’s new theater company is still unnamed, but they are already in the process of applying for grants and funding. By breaking away from Juliano’s theater, they are taking the next step in his cultural intifada. Meanwhile The Freedom Theatre and its acting school continue in Jenin. There are chapters of Friends of The Freedom Theatre in the US, France, Sweden, Germany, Argentina, the UK, and Belgium, and organizations like Freedom to Create and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency continue to support the theater.
Juliano Mer-Khamis is gone, but what he created has taken on a life of its own, spreading a new kind of resistance through Palestine. In a September interview, Acting General Manager Jacob Gough spoke to the theater’s future: “[The] Freedom Theatre is stronger than whatever can be thrown at it. The Israeli army can come and take us all, but the Freedom Theatre will keep going… So in ten or fifteen years, when people see the Freedom Theatre is here, still fighting, people will start realizing—more and more people will join this idea.” The Freedom Theatre and its acting school are still active, and in the past month the theatre has held two Playback Theatre events, during which members of the theater enact true stories from the audience about life under occupation.