The realisation that over half of Palestine's population is under 18, puts an urgent
focus to Iman Aoun's work with the youth of Palestine. She brought together the
voices of young people to create The Gaza Monologues - which became an
international sensation - and she directed the Palestinian Richard II at the Globe to
Globe Theatre Festival in 2013. She runs Ashtar Theatre Group in Ramallah.
Aoun is an actress and trainer as well as co-founder of the Ashtar theatre, which uses 'oppressed theatre' techniques in its international repertoire. Ashtar Theatre was established in Jerusalem in 1991 as a non-profit organization by Aoun and another prominent Palestinian actor, Edward Muallem.
Ashtar Theatre aims to promote creativity and commitment for change through specific training and acting programs and services, as well as professional theatre performances. equipping young Palestinians with essential skills that go beyond acting. Other aims of the theatre are to increase self-awareness and confidence in young people, as well as leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. To ensure that its work can be accessed by all, it often moves its stage to remote areas.
As well as using theatre to promote creativity and change locally, Ashtar Theatre also aims to draw the world's attention to the continuous deprivation and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip caused by the war and its rigid closure, and to advocate for the rights and needs of children in Gaza who are the innocent victims of this ongoing conflict.
Aoun uses "Forum Theatre", originally devised in Brazil by Augusto Boal as a means of promoting a more active dialogue and commitment for change within society. Forum Theatre is seen as a democracy building tool which engages the audience to interact on stage with essential social and political issues.
The Gaza Monologues
Through workshops at the theatre, using various therapeutic methodologies such as the theatre of the oppressed, psycho-drama and psychological therapy, Ashtar worked with young people to turn their personal accounts of the war into The Gaza Monologues. The Gaza Monologues have been shown across the world, as far as Europe, Zimbabwe (amongst many other countries), the UN headquarters in New York, and to marginalized groups from all over Palestine.
Aoun has also established Land Out Loud, a "multi-disciplinary multi genre" project that excavates creative expressions using land as a metaphor, theme and catalyst. It is described as "healing by doing art, by raising voices, writing poetry, stories, monologues, whatever doing films".