Spectacle Pour Tous. A Traveling Theater for Moroccan Citizens
Eva Tapiero / Morocco
Eva Tapiero / Morocco
The company created in 2010 by the actor and director Hamza Boulaiz has a clear goal: “To defend the values of freedom of expression in the frame of art through the creation of a cultural movement that involves Moroccan citizens”. In order to reach this objective, Hamza uses a method that is “very simple: I work”, he told us.
If you don't go to the theater, the theater will come to you
In the backseat of a blue taxi of Tangier, Hamza Boulaiz starts to tell his story and that of Spectacle pour tous (Show for All). A native of the city of the strait, he paints a complicated relationship with this city which has “very much inspired” him, but which has also been very hard on him. We won’t know more about it, only that in spite of it all, this singular story has forged in him the desire to give back that which gave him life here, that which allowed him to “make it through”.
Boulaiz studied at the higher institute of performing arts in Rabat, before returning to Tangier in September 2016 with a brand new project for his company, a theater-truck.
“Staying in one setting, this really doesn't matter to me, I work to create emotion”, he says.
Hamza explains that the activities of his company, Spectacle pour tous, are concentrated in three axes, which each dip into many types of projects. The first, creation, self-propelled or commissioned; diffusion, this can come about either through open workshops or with a specific theme to raise awareness for certain subjects; and finally experimentation.
For each of these aspects, the vision of the company is always the same: “the right to Art and culture”.
The creative process, that goes from the writing to the mise-en-scéne, has led to theatrical performances that the company has presented in different spaces and contexts. Their new creation, Khoroto, was performed in the truck, first in Tangier and then at l’Uzine in Casablanca on June 8th and 9th, before showing this piece at the Avignon Festival next year.
The art director bemoans a certain Moroccan citizen ritual, that exists today and that is limited to the triangle “bar, mosque, cafe”. He explains it as a “search for civilian action that will endure”.
He insists, as well, that the general approach of the company, which is not limited to artistic production, also constitutes a viable endeavor from an economic standpoint. Today the company survives thanks to a few patrons, to public assistance, and to proceeds from ticket sales. Each member can propose individual initiatives, that are evaluated in a brain trust. There is a common bank that was formed to be used for necessary investments for the development of the company.
According to Hamza, this economic model guarantees the continuity of cultural action and “allows us to pay artists full-time, a rare thing”.
The idea of the truck was also imagined as a source of income, not based on ticket sales, entry remains free, but on the possibility of renting this mobile stage to others. “I always aim for sustainability, we are not ephemeral”.
Aji Tfarej, Come See
The company is continuously searching for ways to encourage the Moroccan public not only to watch, but also to become an integral part in cultural and artistic activities. The truck, which has been named Aji Tfarej, literally “Come See”, brings two essential things to the table: it offers a great freedom and allows for the democratization of dramatic arts.
Thanks to its mobility and to the fact that it is free of cost, it facilitates contact with citizens and so the initiation into the universe of theater and performing arts in general. The company speaks of “creating a bond, creating a closeness in the context of artistic communication”.
When Hamza speaks of the truck he is proud and moved. For him and for the company it represents a new path which they have just begun to walk. He illuminates us in detail about the technical and practical functions of such a space and enthusiastically explains the proximity that it brought between the actors and the audience. “The truck has a maximum capacity of 120 seats, but it is possible to enlarge the stage reducing the number of seats”, he tell us.
This nomadic stage has already been tested on the streets of Morocco, in particular with a trip between Tangier and Guelmim, dotted with performance-stops. Hamza’s eyes glisten while he tells us about his next dream for the truck: a theatrical trip between Tangier and Dakar, in Senegal.
But Aji Tfarej isn't “limited” to being “a truck”. It's a project that foresees the participation of the youth of Tangier as well. This year the company launched the first of a new kind of festival. In line with its objective to enhance direct citizen participation in the cultural production of the country, the company created the Aji Tfarej Festival.
“The big festivals do their job, I’m not criticizing. But we have a different approach, for us citizen participation counts”.
The initiative united six public high schools for a total of over 6000 students. From May 2nd to 29th of last year, the company offered the citizens of Tangier a program based on the work done over the course of the school year, thanks to the collaboration with the DROSOS Foundation, which works particularly on behalf of young people in the Tangier area.
The project was initiated with the 2016/2017 school year through theatrical workshops within the six high schools involved. In each participating establishment a room is made available. Followed by an artist and a reference teacher, students are able to work on their show throughout the school year. The process is put in place for a cycle of two years with four workshops in each high school. The purpose of this being to create spaces that, once started and consolidated, can continue autonomously after the end of the company's intervention.
The festival was born primarily as an occasion to perform the shows that the high school students in all the schools have given life to, for the public. For the company, this programming “responds to new needs of young people and enormously enriches the curriculum of the the public schools of Tangier”. The group hopes to create a positive dynamic, so as to transform the image of art and culture, and in particular of the theater, thanks in particular to the experience of the boys and girls.
Closing the circle
During our trip to Tangier it was up to the students of the Allal Fassi high school to present the fruit of their year in the theater. The day before the show a meeting was organized to speak about culture, and more specifically of “democratizing culture, is it possible to do it differently?” Tireless and omnipresent, it was the art director that animates this “master class” with the girls and boys that have participated in the Aji Tfarej project.
Rashid Hassani, videographer of the group, translates for us the numerous and lively interventions of the adolescent public. He also tries to explain the work of the company with the young public using a metaphor.
“One must imagine someone who has never eaten fruit. One day this person comes into a space filled with fruits of all kinds. This person would not really know what to do, which to choose. He/she wouldn’t even really know if he/she could choose any at all. We are there to help this person and to guide him/her in this choice”.
Rachid Meggaro, educational director of the Allal Fassi High School came to take part in the exchange between Hamza and the students. According to him it is “an excellent initiative” and he is very happy that it takes place in the school he directs. He confesses that at first the students thought of the theater essentially as vaudeville or as texts they are forced to study during lessons. “Here they can acquire another vision: they themselves are the ones who create it”.
At the end of the workshop, a dozen girls and boys wait for Hamza. All of them want to talk about the same thing: they are thinking of continuing their studies in art and culture, but their parents are not at all on board. They would like for him to meet with their parents to plead their cases since it was he who introduced them to the theater to begin with. Hamza accepts, he is continuously confronted with this kind of request.
The day after, the theater Mohamed El Haddad, not far from the high school, is completely full. The theater is stirring, the show called Finir la table (Closing the Circle), on which the students have worked for a year, is about to begin. On the stage 41 boys and girls move with grace and without error. The romantic relations, and more generally the relations between men and women and the patriarchy, are the theme at the center of this piece.
They are silly, incisive, and professional, the scenography is extraordinary. They have risen to the occasion.
At the end of the show the curtain is boiling, they are elated. When they are asked what they wished to represent, they respond determined: strength, concentration, creativity, passion, peace…
They are proud of what they have accomplished, just like Jihane Elkhaloui and Rachid Aboujoud Jedouani who have followed them and guided them on this adventure. Rachid explains that with them he used his own method, which works just as well with professional actors and actresses as with amateurs. Throughout the year he articulated the work around three essential elements: time, space, and concentration.
The audience, often newer to theater than the actors of the night, are agitated as the lights go down in the theater. It is even necessary to call out a few of them for silence. However, as the play goes on, everyone seems to be captivated and listening. One can even notice here and there proud looks and tears in the eyes of some of the mothers, moved.
So the date is set in Morocco to travel with Spectacle pour tous.
Report done in the frame of the project WAR with the support of the Anna Lindh Foundation and the France Foundation.
Translated from French by Sidney Cavaricci-White