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This theater is mine, and I protect it !

It all happens in the auditorium of the South Theater in Jarash, in Jordan, where 1.500 kids are gathering to watch the 2.000 year old, stone-built stage become alive with acts of showmanship: a fully-studied ‘edutainment’ (education + entertainment) procession that brings up on the scene young, well trained, passionate actors and singers. The event is organized by the Jordan Department of Antiquities, partner of the EU funded ATHENA Project within the Euromed Heritage 4 program. The consortium of Euromed countries working in the project includes Tunisia, Italy, Spain, Algeria, and of course Jordan. “Great crowd of people, so-well disciplined – comments Ahmad Al Marwani from the Institute for Literary Studies and Human Sciences of the University of Tunis, leader of the Tunisian team - and there is so much interactivity between the pupils… The action on stage is excellent, it really shows the dynamics and the possibilities available in an ancient theater”.

Over 1500 pupils from the 4th till the 10th grade are gathering in Jarash from 25 schools, represented by 75 teachers: what develops under their eyes is a colorful festival of performances, music, songs and plays that bring delight to the audience. A young student comes up to the stage playing different tunes only through his mouth: everybody can hear him, and the impressive acoustic of the place gives a lesson on how skillful our ancestors were in building public venues meant to receive an audience. Then the time comes for a break-dance group, followed by a coral group. Then a play on pedestrian crossings and the importance to respect it is staged by students of the Academy of the Visually-Impaired in Amman. They are followed by a play from the Burj School in Jarash on the evils of honor crimes.

The kids sitting in the audience are wearing caps and T Shirts carrying the ATHENA logo and a slogan that reads: “Our cultural heritage is part of our identity” and “ancient theaters are for all…Let’s preserve them”. Teachers, families and staff are sitting among them, enjoying the shows as much as the ambience. “We wanted to hold this activity in the South Theater to show that ancient theaters are indeed ‘theaters for all’ and can be used without being damaged,” says Nizar Al Adarbeh, ATHENA Project Manager. “It’s a great performance, with lots of variety, and the kids are ecstatic” says a teacher. “I only regret that I didn’t bring more of my pupils to the event: judging from the excitement around, they would have really enjoyed themselves,” says Iman Al Majali, headmistress of a school in Amman who caters mainly for those who have some form of disability.

Three cameras and different tripods are filming the event. Once the Roman Army legionnaires dressed in their full colorful armor take the scene, hundreds of photo cameras click and capture the maneuvers, the tactics and the fights of the gladiators. “We want the event to be recorded on film as a documentation of a very important action that will serve as a future reference – continues Al Adarbeh - other partners might want to hold similar awareness activities targeting kids”.

“We were introduced to a great variety of acts on stage and outside, a stark reminder that in ancient times the theater was used for different events and purposes,” points out Algerian team leader Fatoum Kharchi from the Bati Environment Laboratory of the Houari Boumediene University of Science and Technology”.

The good level of solidarity shown by the public and private sectors is making this event possible. Many schools have volunteered to support the efforts of the organizers, like the Modern Systems Schools that has provided buses to take students from Amman to the theater site and back. The Central Traffic Department of the Jordan Police - has banners on stage and wants to show to the young audience the importance of following traffic safety rules on the Kingdom’s roads. “I think this is an excellent way to get the ATHENA Project message across - points out Spanish Team leader Maria Teresa Doménech Carbó of the Institute of Restoration and Heritage of the University Polytechnic of Valencia – We need to know our heritage, our kids need to know where they come from, and what legacy the past has left for them. And most of all we need to understand how important is to protect this legacy, to restore it, to use it and to save it for future generations ” .

Marwan Asmar

Project: Athena

  • To minimize the progressive decay of ancient theatres in terms of physical, cultural and socio-economic aspects
  • To support the revival of theatres as a part of a wider archaeological site or urban context
  • To establish an overall strategy for dealing with tangible and intangible heritage aspects

From: 01.02.09 To: 01.05.13
Budget: € 1.452.302,00
Countries involved: Algeria,Italy,Jordan,Spain,Tunisia

Project sheet

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