Jenin, West Bank — The Arab American University at Jenin will offer the first accredited theater-degree course in the Palestinian territories, starting this fall. The three-year undergraduate program will be based in part at the Freedom Theatre, which was founded in 2006 in the Palestinian refugee camp here.
The new theater school receives support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and from the philanthropic organization ArtVenture. The program will be supervised by theater professionals from around the world, and led by Juliano Mer Khamis, a founder and director of the Freedom Theatre.
According to a Web site for the new school, the program will train students to work as professional actors, as well as leaders in the fields of culture and art. In classes at the university, they will study the history of theater and world arts, Palestinian history and culture, literary and theatrical criticism, Arabic and English. At the Freedom Theatre, they will develop practical skills.
The Freedom Theatre has been host to dozens of local and foreign productions since it was opened in the wreckage of the Jenin refugee camp, part of which was destroyed in fierce fighting between Palestinian and Israeli forces during the second intifada. The Freedom Theatre has recently opened a new facility that will serve as a center for the acting school course.
One of the founders of the Freedom Theatre is Zacharia Zubeideh, local commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terrorist group. As a teenager, he had participated in the Stone Theatre, founded by Anna Mer Khamis, Juliano Mer Khamis's mother. "The Freedom Theatre was my idea," he told The Chronicle. "I want to show the world we are artists, that we have a culture." —Matthew Kalman