The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Beirut theater welcomes refugees

Because sometimes you need feel-good stories:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Al-Madinah Theater was supposed to show art films this summer. Instead it has become a home to scores of refugees, and a cultural oasis where their children can act, draw and watch movies.

So far, 85 people have taken shelter from Israeli attacks, laying mattresses in the dressing rooms and wide corridors of two underground floors. In an office building above the theater, 125 others have taken refuge.

Volunteers show up daily at the theater on Hamra Street — several miles from Israel's relentless bombardment of southern Beirut — to give art and drama workshops to help the displaced youth channel pent-up fears and anger into creative expression.

On the main stage, children scamper around their drama teacher, their giggles echoing through the cavernous theater. On a lower floor, youths bend over sheets of paper, drawing trees, butterflies and, in some cases, scenes from the hostilities that have forced them out of their homes in Beirut's suburbs and southern Lebanon, where Israel is focusing its strikes on Hezbollah militants.

Word of the workshops has reached other refugee centers, and the number of children attending has swelled from about 30 to more than 100 on some days.
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