Dear Friends of IMAGINACTION,

Happy New Year! As we wrap up 2009 we wanted to share with you some of the highlights of the year. This past year has been exciting and has taken us to new places, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Ireland. We are proud that our work is part of a global movement that supports peace through justice and alternatives to violence.

This year Hector Aristizabal was invited by several organizations to two European tours where he performed his solo piece “Nightwind” and offered his unique and innovative blend of Theater of The oppressed and Awakening the Imagination trainings.

In October 2009 Hector co-created and co-directed a new Forum theater piece “Under Pressure” with Luc Opdebeeck , director of FORMAAT. “Under Pressure” deals with coma drinking and addiction among the youth in the Netherlands. The play, which premiered in October, has been scheduled for over 200 performances in schools and Juvenal facilities in Holland.

One of the major highlights of this year is the expansion of our work into Afghanistan. Hector was invited to Afghanistan by FES (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung) ICTJ (International Center for Transitional Justice) and AHRDO (Afghan Human Rights & Democracy Organization) for 3 weeks Hector led Theatre for Social Change workshops with women and community activists.  As Hector puts it, “I was honored to meet many courageous Afghan human rights activists working with victims of war, orphans, women, mental health providers, teachers and professional actors.”  While most of the work was in Kabul, Hector also conducted workshop in Herat where he worked with “Voices of Women” the organization founded by Suraya Pakzad, recipient of the 2008 International Women of Courage Award. “Voices of Women” is committed to providing Afghan women shelter, counseling and job training.

In Afghanistan, Hector had the honor of working with his longtime friend and T.O. colleague, Marc Weinblatt from The Mandala Center for Change USA, and Playback Theatre specialist, Karin Gisler, from Switzerland. The 7- week program in Afghanistan was envisioned and organized by Hjalmar Joffre-Eichhorn.

As part of our culture-bridging work Vivien Sansour offered three successful classes in Arabic language and culture in Los Angeles and Orange County and performed some of her new work at American Friends Service Committee “Colors of the Arab World” exhibit among other places.         Both Vivien Sansour and Hector Aristizabal participated in this year’s encounter of TO practitioners in CTORIO, the center created by Augusto Boal who unfortunately died in May of this year, a few months before this unprecedented encounter of nearly 100 practitioners from all over the world who have been inspired by his revolutionary methods.

As in past years we continued offering basic training and technical assistance to on-going projects in Colombia and Palestine, which we aim to increase in this coming year of 2010.

Hector continued offering his yearly intense trainings at Pendle Hill, the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) and The Ojai Foundation. He was also invited to do his work at Oberlin College,  DeAnza College, Foothill College, Swarthmore College, and University of Michigan.

Many of us at Imaginaction returned this year to Fort Benning, Georgia to make giant puppets and participate in the SOAW vigil to close the School of the Assassins. We participated in bringing imagination to other similar peace marches in the Los Angeles area including Free Gaza Vigils, The World Peace March, and the Martin Luther King Parade.  Our own Johnny Zeremeh is currently editing a documentary based on Imaginaction’s street theater and activism.

Finally we have participated in several conferences throughout the year doing presentations, performances and Imaginaction workshops. Recently we were in Barcelona at the Teatro y Salud Mental organized by Forn de teatre Pa’tothom, the Social work and Spirituality conference and the 15th Annual PTO conference. We are pleased to announce that Hector is now member of the PTO board of directors helping organize the 2010 PTO conference in Austin, Texas.

What About The New Year?

Vivien Sansour is working with theatre director, Naomi Newman, on a new piece based on dreams, drawings, personal story, and her poetry.

Hector has been invited to return to Derry, Northern Ireland to develop a 4 week intense program working with two different communities (Protestant and Catholic) dealing with the tensions of a the recent violent killing of a Catholic man.

We are working with FORMAAT to create a 4-week intense training in the West Bank and Gaza.

One of Hector’s dreams is to be able to return to his native Medellin, Colombia and continue offering sustainable trainings to the young leaders at Red Juveniles and other community based organizations so we are working on making his dream come true by fundraising and organizing with locals on the ground in Colombia!

In the Spring, Lantern Books will publish The Blessing Next to the Wound by Hector and Diane Lefer, the story of his surviving civil war and torture in Colombia, his exile in the US, and accounts of seeking healing for himself and others through activism and art. They are also contributors to the forthcoming anthology, Peace Movements Worldwide (Greenwood/Praeger) and they have been invited to write about Imaginaction’s theory and practice for an anthology about new approaches inspired by Boal.

Diane has fiction on political themes scheduled for publication this year in The Ampersand, Evening Street Review, Platte Valley Review, and Santa Monica Review. Her articles about prisons and the juvenile justice system appear in LA Progressive. Beginning in January, she will lead creative writing workshops for adjudicated youth in Los Angeles which ties in well with Imaginaction’s upcoming collaboration with the Youth Justice Coalition, a youth-led organization that represents hundreds of thousands of young people who have, at some point, been in the custody of the State.

Finally, we are thrilled to announce that Imaginaction is now officially an incorporated non-profit organization that can receive tax-deductible contributions. If you feel inspired by the work we do and would like to make a tax-deductible contribution please contact us!

We wish all of you a wonderful New Year and we hope that this coming year will bring us closer to a world more just!

Warm Regards,

Imaginaction Board of Directors