New Virtual Gardeners

By The Palestinian National Theatre/ El Hakawati Theatre Jerusalem (Palestine), ZOUKAK Theatre Company Beirut (Lebanon) and suite42 (Germany)

New Virtual Gardeners is a creative digital art residency for up to 40 young and emerging theatre and visual artists in the three locations, exploring and developing collaborative digital artworks and storytelling.

The “digital garden” was initially conceived by an international collective under the name THE SUN SETS EIGHT TIMES A DAY in 2020, where the central theme of a new global social contract were opened up with audiences worldwide, through interactive online engagement and live – online performance in 2021.

This virtual playspace is ready for a creative takeover by younger artists. The sun is the same everywhere. But every day it rises and sets over different worlds. What do these worlds have in common? How can an artistic communication bridge the geographic and political distances? How may we imagine and shape facets of our common future?

During the residency, the young artists involved will be supported by the lead artists of all three regions to connect, collaborate and co-create.  Together they will explore new themes and develop methods of sharing and exchanging ideas, insight, lived experience and vision.  Our New Digital Gardeners will ultimately create live digital interactive encounters for a global audience and in addition, in each physical location there shall be an “analogue” event, inspired by the online work, including workshops and audience discussions.

> About the organizations of New Virtual Gardeners

Zoukak Beirut 

We created Zoukak in 2006 as a non-hierarchical structure, dedicated to theatre practice as a social and political involvement, with a belief in theatre as a space for common reflection and in collectivity as a position against marginalizing systems. We tested and developed theatrical interventions in emergency sit- uations and beyond, working with incarcerated youths, children with multiple disabilities, women subjected to domestic violence, migrant domestic workers and other marginalized fractions of our society, while continuing to work with people affected directly and indirectly by war. 

Since Zoukak’s inception and with each new project we strive to find new ways of collective creation, springing from our understanding of theatre as collective work done by diverse individuals. Our methodology of work emphasizes processes rather than outcomes. For us collaboration lifts the creative operation to a higher level, allowing for unexpected approaches to theater making and a multiplicity of expression. Through our artistic creations, we tackle topics that question the ambient status-quos in our context and beyond. We structure our research and creation processes around cycles of work, producing an array of projects around specific themes; such as gender and sexuality, history, power and religion, death and immortality, childhood and violence, re-enactment, among others. 

Moreover, we are committed to applying theatre in various fields: through social engagement, therapy, and education. We developed a specific approach to psychosocial interventions of drama therapy and socially engaged theatre, providing workshops and training programs to diverse groups, and devising performances in different Lebanese regions and in various contexts, finding ways to connect social interventions with artistic investigations. 

Zoukak received many international awards, among them the Ibsen Scholarship, the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Award for social resilience and creativity, the Chirac Foundation Award of Culture for Peace, and the Ellen Stewart International Award.



suite42 Berlin

suite42 is a collective of international theatre artists committed to work that engages with remarkable historical moments and in particular with the effects of violence, war and migration on societies and individuals. Coinciding with the begin of the Syrian revolution in 2011 suite42 began to cooperate with authors and companies in the near east and maghreb regions to explore the challenges in times of instability and nationalistic tendencies in Europe. In response to the increased immigration to Germany suite42 cooperate with numerous artists in exile. The second focus lies on the pre- and post-1989 reality in Germany, Europe and the World. suite42 tour extensively and offer multilingual theatre pieces seeking to inspire non-rational, sensual understanding. The work has been described as ‚translations of the unspeakable’. Since 2018 suite42 are part of the Collective Artistic Management of tak Theater Aufbau Kreuzberg, Berlin.



El Hakawati / Palestinian National Theater

The PNT was founded as the El Hakawati Theatre by Francois Abu Salem in the early 80ies, and became a legendary touring theatre - regularly playing in southern, central and northern Europe, the US and Canada, as well as Asian countries. Since the Oslo agreement international engagement has taken a different turn, and a lot of international financial support has sparked numerous international collaborations, especially after 2001. The PNT underwent several difficult periods. Since 2015, under the leadership of Amer Khalil, it has managed a steady production and hosting of international collaboration projects with companies from Sweden, Norway, Germany, Italy, France and the USA.

Leading a team of eight colleagues, Amer Khalil manages the monthly playing schedules, invites old and new companies and artists to create work for the theatre within set topics and themes each year. He ensures that there is a good mixture on offer to address very different target audiences. His aim is to be a place for amateur and professional groups, for community initiatives, for youth groups and children events. The audience coming to the theatre should reflect the Palestinian society as a whole. As a leading artistic institution the theatre often hold events for international partners, such as embassies and consulates, foundations and funding organisations.