Youth Bridge Global has in recent years been committed to offering some of our leading actors in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Rwanda additional theater training. We have been lucky enough to forge a remarkable relationship with Shakespeare & Company. This extraordinary organization has raised funds to cover the board and tuition for four different visits of Rwandans and Bosnians. Ilija Pujic, from Mostar, attended the summer Shakespearean acting workshop in 2013 and the intermediate acting workshop for young professionals in winter 2015. Three Rwandans, Innocent Munyeshuri, Abdoul Mujyambere, and Jeannine Uwase, were participants in the summer workshop in 2014. Mustafa Stupac, also from Mostar, was our latest attendee in summer 2015. He writes below of the learning process.

Mustafa Stupac: Growing at Shakespeare & Company

I had high expectations of Shakespeare & Company's 4-week program in June 2015 and I was not disappointed! In my time with this remarkable group of teachers and actors, I learned a lot about theatre, Shakespeare, and, most importantly, myself. I had failed to realize how much of myself I hid from others and even hid from myself. The program reminded me of memories I had completely forgotten and made me more self-aware.

Perhaps the best part of the program was the colleagues and mentors I met at the workshop. After only three days, the other student actors and I felt as though we had known each other for years, despite having only just met. My new friends could not have been more welcoming and kind to me, which I especially appreciated because I was the only non-American in the program. The warm reception I received blew my mind and changed some of the prejudices that I had about American youth.

The workshop earned its description as "intensive." Our schedule, filled with classes on voice, movement, physical awareness, and other topics, was planned thoughtfully so that each day broke us down and buillt us back up little by little. The program was not just physically and psychologically intense, but also emotionally so. At some point, all of us youth felt drained, but our teachers kept us going and supported us through our four week stay. These teachers were amazing, and they still send us advice through the mail even though the program is finished. They actually became invested in our learning and taught us through guidance rather than direct instruction, so that in the end we were teaching ourselves. Even though they were in charge, our teachers never put themselves above us and always treated us as equals.

At first, the collaborative teaching style of the program made it difficult for me to prepare for my scene. At the same time, while this approach offered great freedom, I felt burdened by choice. Even though I hit the wall many times during the process, I eventually managed to get through thanks to the guidance of my teachers. Creating the scene from Cymbeline was something new for both myself and my partner, Chris, though we worked diligently every day to find new ways to improve our production. The scene explored the tension between two very different male characters in the play, who each is convinced of the rightness of his perspective. It's a beautiful scene with many turnovers. I was really glad that I could help my partner and watch him grow. In the end, my partner and I came to love our scene and greatly enjoyed performing it and getting feedback from our peers.

This program exceeded all of my expectations. It changed my perception about American youth, learning, and even myself, all the while granting me the courage to keep on doing what I love. It also connected me with new friends, with whom I bonded to a greater extent than my friends at home because we all felt as though we could share things with each other that we usually don't say -- which we still do, through the check-ins in our private Facebook group. It almost looks like a group therapy, but it's not! It's just nice to hear from others and to learn that I am not the only one who struggles, and that I am not afraid to show that I am struggling. Shakespeare & Company's program was a unique and unforgettable experience and what I appreciate most was the amazing people that I met there. I think I will always have their support no matter what, and since we all went through this amazing journey we have become a team. I cannot express enough words of gratitude for being able to participate in this program.

This experience will be extremly helpful to me, because I think I have grown as an actor and director. The unique style of learning gave me plenty of tools to work in my community with my comrades. I can't wait to convey some of my experience to other people.