When the theatre is a second family
Letter to Friends around the World # 101

In Algeria, there is a distinct lack of cultural facilities for young people. The only place in which they can express themselves is out on the streets. But they are nonetheless keen to take part in theatre, music, art and all other kinds of cultural and artistic expression.

Azzedine joined the youth club in his home town at an early age, exceedingly keento get involved in theatrical  activities. To start with he just attended rehearsals of the troupe from the local theatre, but later he took small parts in plays for children. Then, when he left school, he went to study at the National Training Institute for Specialized Teachers.

In 2002, he was based in Si Mustapha, a small town of around 15,000 inhabitants typically employed in the local factories or working on the land around the town. In the absence of any cultural infrastructure the locals decided to create their own cultural association, called AFAK, and asked Azzedine to use his experience to help them. Azzedine approached a college located close to the association, knowing that it offered no cultural activities, with a proposal to form a children’s theatre troupe, as a joint venture between the association and the college. As time went by more and more youngsters got involved. Azzedine helped set up a cooperative called El Ajwad in order for older teenagers to engage with adult amateur dramatics.

Students of all secondary school ages took part in a number of festivals in the region. Now aged 28, Sid Ali was one of those involved: “I love the way the theatre gave me the chance to express myself. I could discuss things with my director that I could never have discussed with my father. The troupe was like my second family, and still is. I won the prize for best performer at the festival of theatre for children held in Constantine in 2005. My mother and my two sisters were very proud of me, and I know that my father is too, even if he doesn’t show it.”

Having this year become aware of Tapori, the cooperative has decided to reach out to a larger number of young people by offering more activities than theatre alone. Every week there is a two-hour meeting which starts with Tapori activities and ends with theatre rehearsals.

Azzedine D., Cooperative, Algeria