“Going to the Neighbors’ House” is a community theatre play born from a collaboration between the Red Tomato project and the Psycho-Social Training Institute in Cairo (PSTIC). It aims to raise awareness on the condition of refugees within the Egyptian community. Since mid-2010, the group, which lists Syrian, Somali, Sudanese, Iraqi, Ethiopian, and Eritrean as well as Egyptian performers, has been shedding light on what being a refugee means, on the misunderstandings and stereotypes refugees are subject to, and the services and aid they require upon arrival in Egypt from their home countries.
Jakob Lindfors, Diana Calvo, and Nancy Baron launched the project in June 2010 with a two-month-long training for actors from several countries, including Egypt. The training was followed by a workshop, at the end of which the team, composed mostly of refugees, came out with “Going to the Neighbors’ House” – a full theatre script based on its members’ personal stories. The play also has an interactive element, and encourages audience members to share their experiences after performances.
A recent performance told the story of Egyptian youth at a picnic who become aware of a neighboring group of non-Egyptians who start playing traditional music and singing. The two groups eventually mingle and exchange stories of where they came from, and talk about experiences of racism and stereotypes.
Lindfors stressed that, since the beginning, the project has evolved through improvisation and constant dialogue between its members, and has never been static.
“Going to the Neighbors’ House” began preview performances in October 2010, and officially opened on Jan. 23, 2011. The play has been performed up to 50 times in Cairo.
“The response we received from the Egyptian audience has changed according to the shift in the political and social context,” Lindfors told The Cairo Post. “When we started it was Mubarak’s time and people would believe in stability and security, but after January 2011, a feeling of unsteadiness and constant fear started to spill over the Egyptian community.”