We created Zoukak in 2006 from a need to develop a professional continuity for our theater practice, a belief in this practice as a political and social involvement and a faith in collectivity as a position against marginalizing systems.
The way we position ourselves outside the dominating political and social discourses in our context defines our political involvement as artists. An involvement that we strive to push beyond discourse through practical action within communities.
2006 also witnessed the Israeli war in Lebanon and the displacement of two million Lebanese from the south, and in 2007 all of the Naher el Bared Camp population moved to Beddawi Camp, and in both cases we found ourselves in these locations making psycho-social theater interventions through a special approach to drama therapy. Since then we tested and developed theatrical interventions in emergency situations and beyond, working with incarcerated youth, children with multiple disabilities, women subjected to domestic violence and other marginalized fractions of our society, while continuing to work with people affected directly and indirectly by the war. We broadened the frame of our interventions towards villages, schools and refugee camps across Lebanon seeking thereby to break the exclusivity of the cultural life in the city of Beirut, and confronting people in their areas, finding ways to connect our social interventions with our artistic investigations.
Since Zoukak's inception and with each new project we strove to find new ways of collective creation, springing from our understanding of theater as collective work done by diverse individuals. Our methodology of work emphasizes processes, and for us collaboration lifts the creative operation to a higher level, and allows for unexpected approaches to theater-making, all-the-while providing a more horizontal participation in decision- making and a multiplicity of expression. Since the Installation-performance "Ish Ibka Smu Sud Jud..." (2006)that gathered us before Zoukak, we started questioning the role of the performer in the authoring of a theater work and we employed collective dramaturgy as a tool for the actor to take an actual position through the performance. By suspending the theater action, we took a stand from what we called the absurdity of our surrounding. Later, during our work on Hamlet Machine (2009) and Hamlet Machine 2 (2010), we delved into a Heiner Muller text that made us question the role of the actor on stage in his/ her confrontation with the audience and society, and the actor's only possible action there was a handicapped revolution against the fossils of ideologies and stagnating systems. History showed us an upheaval of what we deemed as "absurd" in our status quo; the revolutions of the populations of our region against their dictators. Consequently the theatrical situation pushed us towards action through speech. So we adopted a method of collective writing, with the site specific performance "Silk Thread" (2012) that we saw as an argumentation with history and its actual events, myths and popular convictions about the interplay of gender and power; questioning our heritage and our collective memory of crime, war, sexuality and language. In "Perform-Autopsy" (2012) we put history on the table of autopsy, questioning the individual and common responsibility towards past events that make up our contested Lebanese History ; allowing the audience to participate in a process of writing this unwritten history. In our latest production "Lucena: Obedience Training" (2013), flirting with the boundaries of censorship, we made use of a classical text, "Emperor and Galilean", by Henrik Ibsen, to question the authoritarian model that governs religion, society and theater in our contemporary society. Our journey would not have been complete if each of us did not have a personal space, to create individual performance work supported and nourished by our collective experience.
On the other hand and in our endeavor to develop an environment of dialogue and reflection around the performing arts, we supported and expanded a network of diverse practitioners, by organizing cultural events that joined us and our audience with artists from Lebanon and around the world through workshops, residencies, performances, lectures, encounters and discussions around the theater, dance, live art, playwriting, architecture, drama therapy, education, and cultural policies; in an attempt to provide a space for practical exchange and critical thinking about these practices.This space was concreted with Zoukak's studio, which opened its doors in 2008, serving in part as a free access rehearsal and creation space for local performing artists and remaining "the kitchen" of our entire project.