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Hope Through Art

CCM helps African refugees learn to perform

May 6, 2011

by John Bach

Residents of the world's largest refugee camp are gaining hope and a bit better understanding of what it means to be human thanks to the work of a pair of UC alumni and representatives from the College-Conservatory of Music.

Equipped with their '05 CCM degrees, Michael Littig and Julianna Bloodgood traveled to Kenya to form a theater company amongst the youth of Dadaab, a refugee camp with a population of around 300,000 people. In June, a contingent of five CCM students —Alyssa Caputo, Cameron Davis, Kristopher Dean, Will Kiley and Mikayla Stanley — led by drama chair Richard Hess, will join them for a week to help African youth refugees create original theater projects.

According to their website, the Dadaab Theater Project is a pilot theater company exploring the power of cultural exchange between CCM actors and members of the Dadaab Refugee camp on the border of Somalia. Dadaab has housed Somalian refugees since 1991. The company will be working with organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, FilmAid, The Great Globe Foundation and Save the Children to promote academic enrichment, sustainability and diversity through the arts.

"The Dadaab Theater Project was founded on a desire to learn and recognize our own humanity in the face of others, especially ones outside the American narrative," state its founders. "We believe deeply in the ritual of theater, that with generosity and curiosity, we can engage in a basic fundamental need to connect with the notion of what it means to be human."

The Dadaab Theater Project gives me a chance to touch and be touched, heart to heart and soul-to-soul. We can change the world.

Alyssa Caputo, CCM freshman

I can already feel this project shaping me; broadening my cultural understanding in unimaginable ways.

Will Kiley, CCM sophomore

I believe that empathy is the actor's gateway to humanity. I also believe empathy to be humanity's gateway to unity.

Kristopher Dean, CCM junior

We can transcend the many barriers that separate and define who we are as people by our communication through art, striving to reach a collective understanding of the world, ourselves, the lives we lead and the essence of what makes us human.

Cameron Jamarr Davis, CCM junior

I can use my art as a means to tell people’s stories who maybe can’t tell it themselves. My art is my means. My art is my way of moving forward.

Mikayla Stanley, CCM senior

Without risk, there is no growth; without growth, there is no life.

Richard Hess, CCM drama chair

Dadaab update from CCM alums Michael Littig and Julianna Bloodgood

'Brilliant and beautiful chaos'