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World Refugee Day: Check Out NYU Abu Dhabi's Moving Play

Art is one of the best ways to understand their courageous journey…

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi is marking World Refugee Day with CARTOGRAPHY, which explores the journeys of four young migrants who leave their worlds behind, seeking a fresh start. The theatrical work in partnership with refugee agency UNHCR will be streamed on June 19 at 8 P.M (GMT +4), and audiences around the globe can experience it by logging on to The Art Center’s Facebook page.

The production draws on director Kaneza Schaal and writer Christopher Myers’ experience in Munich, where they spent a month with a group of young asylum seekers. Schaal, a theatre artist based in New York City, and Myers, known for his literature work for young people, were inspired by their stories after meeting them in 2016. And the challenges the young refugees described as they travelled to reach their new homes, and their desire to remain visible and connected set the foundation of the work. While touching on the migration experiences of young asylum seekers, Schaal and Myers chose to focus on audiences of the same age.

“A central part of The Arts Center’s mission is to open conversations about urgent social issues through the arts,” Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at NYUAD, said. “The opportunity to participate in World Refugee Day in partnership with UNHCR means that the impact of the work can be amplified even further, helping the message of CARTOGRAPHY to reach even broader audiences.”

The diverse cast comes from places like El Salvador, Syria, Lebanon and Rwanda, and the performance incorporates the actors’ personal displacement histories. While CARTOGRAPHY was developed as part of New Victory Lab Works at The New Victory Theater in New York, some of the piece was developed in residence at NYU Abu Dhabi. The show uses an array of tools such as map-making and sound sensors that activate a virtual storm, developed in part by graduates from NYU Abu Dhabi’s Interactive Media Program in June 2018, integrating technology, performance and sculpture to create a memorable audio and visual journey.

Additionally, NYU Abu Dhabi’s The Arts Center, which presents distinguished professional artists from around the world alongside student, faculty and community productions, came on board as co-commissioners with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Playhouse Square. There was also developmental support provided by Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre, and the Center for the Arts at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University. Produced by ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann, CARTOGRAPHY was made possible by a generous grant from The Joyce Foundation. The show returns as part of the popular Reconnect series, which uses the power of the arts to connect, inspire and entertain people in light of the physical distancing and isolation effects of COVID-19. It was first performed in The Black Box at The Arts Center earlier this year.

The creators, as well as Head of the UNHCR Office in the UAE, Nadia Jbour, will take part in a live Q&A session moderated by Director of Artistic Planning at The Arts Center Linsey Bostwick, following the performance. “We are very pleased to collaborate with The Arts Center at NYUAD to celebrate the World Refugee Day this year, as we believe that art is one of the strongest tools to bring a greater understanding of the plight of refugees and the displacement journey to wider audiences,” Jbour said.

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