Project Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development

People dancing with hands held in the air

Sponsored through the Master of Arts in Applied Theatre at the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) and in partnership with the University of Rwanda, College of Education, Project Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development is a multi-year program whereby MA in Applied Theatre faculty and students travel to Rwanda to work with Rwandan students and teachers in acquiring interactive, applied theatre skills. Formed in 2010, the goals of Project Rwanda are to develop the use of theatre and drama strategies as educational tools to help promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans and to create job opportunities in Rwanda by building applied theatre troops; first in schools and colleges and later in the professional, cultural milieu. The Project Rwanda Blog documents prior and current study aboard trips taken by our students and faculty.

In July 2017, CUNY SPS students participated in the sixth year of Project Rwanda. During the trip, students explored the principles and practices of designing and implementing an interventionist model of theatre for development (TfD), specifically focused on pre-service teacher training at the University of Rwanda, College of Education. Their study and work included:

  • Researching the historical and contemporary cultural and political background of the host country and communities
  • Conducting asset and needs assessments with participating organizations and individual participants
  • Exploring the challenges of building partnerships to work successfully across differences of race, culture, and language
  • Implementing theatre workshops with UR students to demonstrate a range of applied theatre conventions and strategies
  • Supporting UR students to create and implement their own models of practice
  • Working alongside UR students to share cultural practices and perspectives on the work
  • Participation with UR students as co-creators, actors, and facilitators in jointly devised, original work

The 2017 project team was led by Professors Helen White and Christopher Vine. Fourteen students from the MA in Applied Theatre program participated in this study abroad opportunity. Coordination of the project in Rwanda was assumed by Jean de Dieu Musayidizi, Head of Drama for the Rwandan Broadcasting Agency (RBA) and UR adjunct faculty, and Léon Mugabe, Faculty of Education, working in consort with Dr. Ahimana, the Head of Department of Humanities and Language Education, and Dr. Niyomugabo, Dean of School, University of Rwanda, College of Education.

Once again, as on previous occasions, the visit provided the opportunity for all concerned to learn through their artistic and wider cultural and interpersonal experiences. This was especially true for the University of Rwanda and CUNY students at the heart of the project, all of whom derived much mutual benefit from working together and learning from each other. There was much to admire and appreciate in the work produced and the bonds forged, but sadly, at this time, the future of the project is uncertain. This stems from the increasing financial constraints on all sides, the re-organization underway at the University of Rwanda, and the demise of the URCE theatre education program which has been affected by trends in employment within the Rwandan education system. Both the U of R and CUNY SPS are hoping that new possibilities will emerge down the road, but agree that for the immediate future a hiatus is unavoidable. We continue to celebrate the friendships that have been formed and the many educational and artistic achievements of the past eight years. A big thank you to all who have supported and participated in this remarkable project.

Learn more about the prior Rwanda trips by reading summaries and student blogs from previous years.