See war through the eyes of a child

November 30, 2018 GMT

Ifrah Mansour’s one-woman play, “How to Have Fun in a Civil War,” will come to the RAC as part of her statewide fall tour.

The performance is something of a reunion.

Before her time at RAC, artistic director Sheila Dickinson wrote grants for a Somali artist collective in Minneapolis called Soomaal House of Art, of which Mansour is a member.

“One of my main ambitions has been to get this group of artists an exhibit,” Dickinson said.

And with Mansour’s stop in Rochester (her show was previously staged at the Guthrie Theater and Children’s Theatre Company), that dream is one step closer to reality.


Mansour, who’s based in Minneapolis, is a Somali playwright and performer. In the show, she revisits her childhood during the 1991 Somali Civil War and reenacts it from the viewpoint of a 7-year-old girl.

“It’s through the eyes of a child,” Dickinson said. “The child didn’t have a choice in this – so how can you get to be a child in the midst of violence?”

That’s quite a task. And Mansour accomplishes it by stepping back, using a variety of refugee stories (from 16 sources) and mediums (poetry and puppetry and projections) to pull her audience through that fraught time in her life.

“She has a lot of humor, a lot of exuberance and energy,” Dickinson said. “It’s a testament to her own resilience and openness.”

The show is intended for stage, but will be modified to fit in the front lobby of the art center.

It will run for about 50 minutes, followed by a discussion with Mansour, and is recommended for ages 6 and up.

The art center wants to connect to the Somali population in Rochester, Dickinson said. However, they don’t want to stop there.

“I think that it’s a privilege for anyone to get a view from another person’s perspective, to be open and listening,” Dickinson said. That’s why she hopes the community at large embraces the opportunity to learn more about Somali refugees and the war.

The collaboration won’t stop here. Look for Soomaal House of Art to come to the RAC in late 2019 or 2020, Dickinson said.