Zeina Daccache is a Lebanese actress renowned for her comedic roles. For many years, she has appeared on the weekly satire program "Basmet Watan" and in other comedy roles on "Stand Up Comedy".
But since 2006, she has chosen to assist prisoners in drama therapy workshops, for which she opened a special centre called Catharsis. She performed "12 Angry Lebanese" with inmates of Roumieh Prison and is preparing more work with women prisoners.
She met with Al-Shorfa to discuss her work.
Al-Shorfa: We hear you've been travelling abroad for your prison programme.
Zeina Daccache: I recently returned from Canada, where I held a series of meetings with the administration of Concordia University, during which we discussed the possibility of a partnership with a university in Lebanon to incorporate drama therapy as a specialty to be used in Lebanon to benefit the Arab world, given the great need for this specialty in the Middle East.
Al-Shorfa: What is this treatment?
Daccache: Drama therapy is among a group of similar treatments, such as music, painting and dance therapy. It not only focuses on talking about the problem, but also on how to remove it from the depths through acting and playing the role of the person causing it. Drama therapy helps to shed light on the reality of the psychological problem to be addressed and [facilitates] clear self-discovery and consequent liberation from psychological ramifications. So we are working with prisoners, battered women and drug addicts.
Al-Shorfa: What are you doing at the moment?
Daccache: I am working in the women's prison in Baabda, and the drama therapy workshops will lead to a theatrical work inside the prison with funding from the Swiss Drosos Foundation. The female prisoners will surprise the audience, as they wrote the script and drew inspiration from their problems and circumstances in the subjects of the work.
Al-Shorfa: What have you taken away from the experience of working in prisons?
Daccache: I came out with more and larger responsibilities and the need to continue what I started. I cannot leave these prisoners, just as the therapy cannot be stopped. There are a huge number of people in need. For example, when I started my program at Roumieh Prison, I began with 100 prisoners, and I am currently working with 200 prisoners, as I work with all the female prisoners. So I think that as long as there is a need for treatment, I will continue what I started.
Al-Shorfa: You opened a special centre for drama therapy. Tell us about that.
Daccache: My association, Catharsis, also works in rehabilitation centres for drug addicts and in a mental hospital in Fanar, with funding from the Italian embassy. Moreover, the association's clinic receives patients, ensuring them special treatment programs. The bulk of our work focuses on training people to become therapists.
Al-Shorfa: Could you expand this experiment to prisons across the Arab world?
Daccache: Certainly, hence my insistence on bringing the specialisation of drama therapy to the Arab world from Beirut. After adopting this specialty at universities in Lebanon, those from the Arab world who want to can specialize in it and go back and apply it in their countries.
Al-Shorfa: Including Iraqi prisons?
Daccache: Why not? Iraq interests me, and its prisons in particular, due to the size of the tragedy and persecution experienced by the Iraqi people. I do not have in-depth knowledge about the situation of prisons in Iraq, but I think Iraq prisoners need someone to assist them and provide them with treatment, as well as the development of a new structure taking into account the treatment of prisoners.