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CCM Drama Students to Create Theater Projects with Youth Refugees in Kenya

Local audiences can preview CCM Drama's contribution to the Dadaab Theater Project on Saturday, May 21.

Date: 5/5/2011 12:00:00 AM
By: Aubrey Shermock
Other Contact: Curt Whitacre
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-2683

UC ingot   This June, five College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) Drama students will take part in an original theater project that brings the power of the performing arts to the world’s largest refugee camp – the Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya, which houses 268,000 refugees.

The pilot Dadaab Theater project will involve CCM students working with African youth refugees to share and create original theater projects, culminating in a performance on World Refugee Day in Nairobi, Kenya on June 20. CCM Drama Chair Richard E. Hess will accompany students Alyssa Caputo, Cameron Davis, Kristopher Dean, Will Kiley and Mikayla Stanley as they travel to Kenya for a week to share their talents in this new cultural exchange program.

“The Dadaab theater project is the first opportunity in my life to actively use my art to tell stories that must be told,” said junior Kristopher Dean. “I am going to Kenya to share, to listen, to grow and to return with stories that I must tell.”

The Dadaab Theater Project aims to use theater as a tool for communication, expression, transformation and healing in order to inspire refugee youth to create their own opportunities for positive personal and community change. CCM Drama alumni Michael Littig (2005) and Julianna Bloodgood (2005) co-founded the project and are working in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, FilmAid, The Great Globe Foundation and Save the Children. Littig and Bloodgood approached Hess last year about CCM Drama getting involved with the collaboration.

“I am so excited by the offer to make students in CCM Drama the United States representatives to this unique project,” said Hess. “As a theater teacher and director I believe in storytelling. I believe in celebrating diversity through storytelling, and I believe that we must find a way to expose students to our multicultural world. As an artist, I believe we must go where we are afraid to go and listen to and share with those whose voices have been marginalized.”

Littig and Bloodgood, who are currently in Kenya, have formed a pilot theater group of youth refugees for the project. Training with master artists from Somalia, Burundi and Sudan, Littig and Bloodgood are leading the refugee youth in creating a theater piece centered on identity. Through their work and performance, the youth will learn to play a meaningful role in reconciliation, leadership and a way to speak within and beyond their community.

At CCM, Hess has been leading the group of five Drama students in generating an original theater piece about identity – called The Collapsible Space Between Us – which they will take to Kenya. While at the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the CCM team will work together with Kenyan artists and youth refugees to share performance work, engage in leadership training, take master classes, share dialogue and create another original theater piece for World Refugee Day.
For more information about the project or to donate to the effort, visit

Benefit Performance
On Saturday, May 21, the CCM students involved in the Dadaab Theater Project will present a benefit performance of The Collapsible Space Between Us, their original theater piece about identity that will be presented in Kenya. The performance takes place at 8 p.m. in the Robert J. Werner Recital Hall in CCM Village. Tickets are $15 and available from the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183 or Proceeds support travel costs for the CCM Drama/Dadaab Theater Project.
The CCM Drama/Dadaab Theater Project is sponsored by The CCM Harmony Fund: Challenging Hate and Prejudice through Performing Arts.
About the Dadaab Refugee Camp
On the border of Somalia, Dadaab has housed refugees for almost 20 years. Most of the people living in the camps – 97 percent – are Somali, though there are also refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Congo and other countries in conflict. Many have lived in Dadaab for more than a decade, unable to return to homes still embroiled in chaos. Originally built to sustain 90,000 refugees, the number is currently at 268,000 and rising on a daily basis.