Summer theatre school in Shiroka Luka revives American-Indian myths and legends

Photo: Radio Bulgaria
For an eighth year in a row and in the first weeks of July, the Rhodopi village of Shiroka Luka resounds with children’s laughter and music. The otherwise monotonous life of the village cheers up by the enthusiasm of the participants in the Summer Theatre School for Orphans from the local orphanage. The theatre director Elena Panayotova is the main person behind the event. She works in Bulgaria and Holland and has attracted the theatre department of Utrecht University as a main partner. Financially, the event is sponsored by the British software company LLP Group and Den-Gri X Foundation. The summer school for orphans has become a stage for young talents and a long anticipated occasion. A lot of foreign and Bulgarian guests as well as students from Holland and the U.K. arrive in the village for the final performances. After Japanese and Indian tales performed in previous years, this year, the festival has highlighted American-Indian myths and legends. In the workshops of the nearly three-week summer theatre school, over 70 children aged 6-15 from the orphanage and 30 young actors from Bulgaria and Holland selected by Elena Panayotova enact the world of the American-Indians. “The actors who participate are convinced in the power of art to bind children and provide them with a safe environment in which they are able to learn a bit more about themselves, the others and the diversity of the world,” says Elena Panayotova and adds:

“Through theater we embark on a journey back in time to acquaint children with the American-Indian myths and legends. Through games, dances, songs, masks and costumes children re-embody characters from those myths and legends. The summer theater school includes all kinds of workshops for puppets, masks, dance improvisations, music, mimes and many others. This way children have many possibilities to develop their talents. Some of them show great potential and have a real chance for professional careers later in life. We’ve set up a theatrical workshop in which 25 Bulgarian and Dutch students from New Bulgarian University work with the children.”

According to Stanislav Shikov, director of the orphanage in the village of Shiroka Luka, the summer theatre school has turned into a good tradition for the life of the orphaned children. This is what he adds:

“With each passing year, I notice the growing-up of the children who socialize well and become ever more successful. Thanks to the summer theatre school and all the contacts that go along with it, more and more children find foster families, both here in Bulgaria and abroad. At the end of the school year, children usually begin to ask me when the actors will arrive and when they will meet them again. We’ve already become friends with the actors and keep constant contact with them.”

English version: Delian Zahariev
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