Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival
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Experience Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival with a Mosaic Mini—the perfect Festival pass to see some of the boldest artists from around the country and around the world. Use these four tickets to see the plays you want, when you want, with whomever you want. See one play four times, or bring one friend to two plays...how you use your tickets is up to you!
Meet the Artists The 2015-16 Lineup
Written and performed by Aaron Davidman
Directed by Michael John Garcés
Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lang Theatre
January 6-24, 2016
One man’s journey to comprehend the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it courses through his divided psyche and argumentative community. Originally commissioned by Theater J in 2007, Davidman’s evolving excavation into the contours of conflict now illuminates a personal story that grapples with the complexities of identity, history and social justice. Wrestling Jerusalem gives voice to a dozen characters, animating their struggles, soul searchings and defensive barriers that give way to a spiritual oneness that offers a promise of peace in the midst of bloodshed. Part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival.
I SHALL NOT HATE
Based on the memoir by Izzeldin Abuelaish
Adapted by Izzeldin Abuelaish and Shay Pitovksy
Directed by Shay Pitovksy
Featuring Gassan Abbas
Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sprenger Theatre
January 23-February 14, 2016
The story of the Gaza fertility doctor (nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize) who refuses to relinquish his commitment to coexistence, even after tragedy befalls his family during Operation Cast Lead. The production, performed in Hebrew and Arabic by one of Israel's leading Palestinian actors, Gassan Abbas, brings humanity and heroism to the role of Abuelaish, in a script adapted and staged by one of our Festival's featured young artists, the Israeli director, Shay Pitovsky. Part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival.
Performed in Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.
By Shachar Pinkas and Shay Pitovsky
Directed by Michael Bloom
At the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company / February 16-28, 2016
On tour at area universities / February 29-March 6, 2016
The youth ensemble of Habimah, Israel's national theater, created this documentary-infused kaleidoscope chronicling the waves of Sudanese refugees who crossed the desert to enter Israel legally and illegally, finding themselves stranded in a drama of relocation and displacement. Adapted for an American troupe and staged by the former artistic director of the Cleveland Play House, Michael Bloom (Off-Broadway’s Sight Unseen), this story personalizes a history of immigration and asks pointed questions about race and the limits of empathy in a welcoming society. Part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival, this production will take place in Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's 100-seat Rehearsal Hall.
AFTER THE WAR
By Motti Lerner
Directed by Sinai Peter
Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lang Theatre
March 24-April 17, 2016
This new play from the author of The Admission tells the story of Joel, a world-famous concert pianist and Israeli expatriate who returns to Tel Aviv following an 18-year absence to perform with the Israeli Philharmonic. Borrowing from events in the life of revered, controversial Israeli ex-pat Daniel Barenboim, the play examines the role of the artist as public citizen and prod to the conscience of a harshly critical community. Following the traumatic fallout from the 2006 war in Lebanon, Joel tries to make amends for the sharp political differences that have estranged him from his beloved mother, his aggressive brother, and his opera-studying son suffering from a fresh case of post-traumatic-stress-syndrome. After The War explores whether true healing can ever be achieved, be it through the performance of art, or the hopeful expressions of a fiercely committed activist. Staged by longtime Voices Festival resident director Sinai Peter in the Lang Theatre. Part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival.
HKEELEE (TALK TO ME)
Written and performed by Leila Buck
Directed by Shana Gold
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Kogod Cradle
April 30-May 1, 2016
A probing portrait of a cosmopolitan Lebanese matriarch as remembered by her Lebanese-American granddaughter who attempts to piece together her beloved Teta's story. Moving between voices, faiths, times and spaces, from Beirut to Bethesda and beyond, Hkeelee invites you to engage in an interactive exploration of what it means to be(come) American: what we hold onto, what we let go and how those choices come to shape who we are. Part of the Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival, this three-performance limited run plays in Arena Stage’s intimate 200-seat Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.
Welcome from the Artistic Director
Welcome to a new year and a momentous next chapter in the life of our nation. Election year will mean the churning up of nativist emotion, bellicose warnings about an impending immigration crisis, and war cries about defeating the Islamic State in the Levant. These are dangerous new times indeed, with real threats and phantom bugaboos, each competing to take hold of our national trajectory.
It’s a momentous new chapter in the life of our theater company and the long-running festival, Voices From a Changing Middle East as well, which finds itself newly anchored here with us at the Atlas. When we say “Middle East,” we understand that we’ve been pointing to Israel and her neighbors—internally and over its borders; that’s where the focus has been trained for over a decade, and it’s an ambiguous moment for the region, facing similarly dangerous new threats and bugaboos competing to take hold of national trajectories; worrisome trajectories in both the Arab and Israeli worlds.
“What is the way forward?” Sir David Hare asked in his powerful play, Via Dolorosa, which launched the first iteration of our Voices Festival back in 2000 at Theater J, and the question remains a driver for us as we reckon with the teeming array of socio-political forces in the region. How do the various parties cohere and coexist? Can they? How will they reconcile different narratives of a shared past? How do we account and bear responsibility for the dead? Can we share a vision of people living side by side, with peace, justice, and mutually-assured security? What is the way forward?
We fought long and hard to hold onto our Voices Festival so that it wouldn’t die; so that it would have air to breathe, and collect voice, and offer free and unfettered expression for artists, audiences, and respondents alike. And so here we are, in a new home; a new context in which to engage in a long-running discourse. The context is one of building a new base—no longer a Jewish Community Centered initiative so much as anew fusion community based on a consortium of affinity partners coming together to support the art, the artists, the questions, and the sowing of new seeds; seeds of trust, candor and forward visioning as to what a sustainable peace might look like.
It’s worth a moment to reflect on how this festival was born, what it stands for, and where it might be going with this unprecedented four-month, five-play run; a run which begins with two stunning solo performance pieces. Wrestling Jerusalem, some 10 years in the making, dovetails with the American premiere of the theatrical memoir, I Shall Not Hate; two ecumenical journeys plunging us deep into the heart of the Israel/Palestine divide; the first driven by a soulful American Jew with a propensity for shape-shifting, and the other by a plaintive Palestinian Muslim who shares his deeply intertwined relationships with family, with his people, and with the citizens and soldiers of Israel. What’s brought us to the doorstep of these two disparate, intrinsically-related plays?
Aaron Davidman was commissioned to create his solo journey in 2006 as an entry into our expanded Voices Festival, which saw the Festival evolve from its original“Voices From a Changing Israel” moniker, to the expanded context —”Voices From a Changing Middle East”—that it maintains today. Since the Festival’s expansion in 2007, we’ve taken on plays by Lebananese-American authors like Mona Mansour and Leila Buck (whose new Hkeelee (Talk To Me), closes out this season’s festival), along with several works by Pakistani author, scholar and diplomat, Akbar Ahmed; Egyptian writers Ali Salem, Yussef El-Gindi, and Salwa Bakr; Palestinian authors Ghassan Kanafani and Taher Najib; together with offerings from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, and Capital Fringe standout Zehra Fazal. Produced Israeli authors have included Savyon Liebrchect, Hillel Mittelpunkt, Hadar Galron, Boaz Gaon and Motti Lerner, given full voice alongside epic Disaporic portraits by the likes of Iris Bahr, Peter Adrian Cohen, and David Zelnik who won the award for the longest (and most audacious) title, Ariel Sharon Hovers Between Life and Death and Dreams of Theodore Herzl. From the early days of 2000 which saw the birth of our Peace Café, an interfaith post-performance discussion forum, through the final year of our Voices Festival at the JCC, the series can claim 20 full productions and 39 workshop presentations and staged readings; virtually every one followed by free-wheeling, carefully curated, post-performance conversations.
Davidman was commissioned to help us find ourselves and our way through the thicket of portraits, positions and controversies that surfaced while engaging in these important inquiries. Originally the idea was to balance the parallel but radically different lives and deaths of activist Rachel Corrie and journalist Daniel Pearl—bright young people who died a year apart, but whose legacies were emblematic of something gone terribly wrong in our world as it impacted Israel or Judaism within the Arab world. Aaron began there and dug deeper and more personally, beyond the headlines, eventually eschewing the young subjects of the commission to get to a much more probing place in his journeys to Israel, Palestine and the formation of his own core values. In developing his play with a variety of inspired collaborators over the years, he has moved the work profoundly, finding a trajectory from fractiousness to wholeness; from divisiveness to internal unity; an utterly profound journey of new play (and new political) development.
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s development is no less astonishing; perhaps even more so; to consider the journeys taken in obtaining an advanced medical education while based in the Gaza Strip, growing a family of 8, and building a multi-story apartment to house his brothers, nieces and nephews, only to face life-altering losses during the final days of the 2009 war. The collaboration between Abuelaish, his Israeli adapter and director, Shay Pitovsky, and the inspirational bridge between them, Palestinian-Israeli actor (and former artistic director of theaters in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm) Gassan Abbas, speaks to the extraordinary nature of this artistic partnership, not easily replicable; far too much the anomaly in the cultural arena, both in Israel-Palestine and increasingly, internationally. It is not easy to sustain joint Israeli-Palestinian initiatives. It’s part of Mosaic’s calling to ensure that these live on.
Join us for the second half of our Voices Festival in later February when we move to Woolly Mammoth Theatre for Promised Land for Promised Land (Eretz Chadasha), a powerfully relevant production with a cast of seven, telling the story of African refugees making their way through the desert in search of a promising new place, free from poverty and genocidal violence, only to find extended detention in Israel while waiting for their asylum appeals to be heard.
After that, it’s more explosive drama about the embattled Israeli family in After the War, the extraordinary new play from, Motti Lerner, author of The Admission. It’s a privilege to be able to share this work with you, and your support in laying the cornerstone for a new theater and signature initiative marks you as true audience-building pioneers. We thank you for your presence and your passion in helping us sustain this festival long into the future.
History of the Voices Festival
2000: Festival Begins as Voices From a Changing Israel at Theater J
Via Dolorosa by David Hare • directed by Nick Olcott
Night Blooming Jasmine by Israela Margalit
Miklat by Joshua Ford
In the Land of Israel by Amos Oz adapted by Joshua Ford
The Murder of Isaac by Motti Lerner
Birth of the Peace Café
Miklat world premiere by Joshua Ford • directed by Nick Olcott (Helen Hayes Award Nomination/Outstanding New Play)
Via Dolorosa by David Hare (remount)
Traveling Jewish Theatre’s God’s Donkey: A Play on Moses, directed by Corey Fisher
From Tel-Aviv to Ramallah: A Beat-Box Journey by Rachel Haverlock • directed by Aaron Davidman (Helen Hayes Award Nomination/Outstanding New Play)
Passing the Love of Women world premiere by Motti Lerner & Israel Zamir, adapted from IB Singer (in conjunction with Habimah Theater in Israel)
Ali Salem Drives to Israel by Ari Roth, based on Ali Salem’s “An Egyptian Meets His Neighbors”
2007: Festival Becomes Voices From a Changing Middle East
Pangs of the Messiah English Language world premiere by Motti Lerner • directed by Sinai Peter
2007 Remount Productions in Conjunction with Capital Fringe Festival:
Via Dolorosa by David Hare
From Tel-Aviv to Remallah: A Beat Box Journey by Rachel Havrelock
Ariel Sharon Hovers Between Life and Death and Dreams of Theodor Herzel by David Zellnik
Chasing Justice / Seeking Truth or It’s Just Not That Safe Anymore written and performed by Aaron Davidman, comissioned by Theater J (will become Wrestling Jerusalem)
I-Site and In the Crossing, written and performed by Leila Buck
NOOR by Akbar Ahmed
The Arab-Israeli Cookbook by Robin Soans, a Peace Café play reading with cooking
Dai (Enough) written and performed by Iris Bahr
The Accident by Hillel Mitelpunkt • directed by Sinai Peter
Benedictus an Iran-Israel-US collaboration by Mahmood Karimi-Hakak, Motti Lerner, Roberta Levitow, Daniel Michaelson and Torange Yeghiazarian
Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza by Caryl Churchill • co-presented with Forum Theatre
From Waziristan to Washington: A Muslim at the Crossroads by Akbar Ahmed
Festival 2010: “Voice of The Woman”
Mikveh by Hadar Galron • directed by Shirley Serotsky
Headscarf and the Angry Bitch by Zehra Fazal
Apples from the Dessert & the Banality of Love by Savyon Liebrecht at the Embassy of Israel
Games in the Backyard by Edna Mazya
Homesick by Dafna Rubinstein & James Turpin
Out of Silence readings From the Afghan Women’s Writing Project
Urge for Going by Mona Mansour
Cameri Theatre’s Return to Haifa, adapted by Boaz Gaon from Ghassan Kanafani • directed by Sinai Peter (Helen Hayes Award Nomination/Outstanding Lead Actress)
Argentina by Boaz Gaon
A Railway to Damascus by Hillel Mitelpunkt
The Promise by Ben Brown
To Pay the Price by Peter-Adrian Cohen
I’m Speaking to You Chinese by Savyon Liebrecht
Wrestling Jerusalem by Aaron Davidman
Hour of Feeling and Urge for Going by Mona Mansour
Via Dolorosa by David Hare (remount)
The Admission by Motti Lerner
Boged (Traitor) by Boaz Gaon & Nir Erez, from Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People
The Big Blue Tent and Jewish Dissent by Robbie Gringras
In Spitting Distance by Taher Najib
Best Friends by Anat Gov
Such a Beautiful Voices is Sayeda’s and Karima’s City by Yussef El Guindi from Salwa Bakr’s The Wiles of Women
Festival 2013: “Dialogues In The Desert”
Apples from the Desert by Savyon Liebrecht • directed by Johanna Gruenhut
Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People by Boaz Gaon & Nir Erez, from Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People • directed by Joseph Megel
Women Soldiers Speak: Testimonies from IDF Soldiers and Inductees, adapted and directed by Jessica Lefkow, in conjunction with Breaking the Silence
The Trial the Refuseniks by Igal Ezraty
Ulysses on Bottles by Gilad Evron
Festival 2014: “Narratives of Nation Building”
The Admission by Motti Lerner • directed by Sinai Peter (Helen Hayes Award Nomination/Outstanding New Play)
Golda’s Balcony by William Gibson (Helen Hayes Award: Outstanding Lead Actress)
1948 adapted by Noya Lancet from the memoir by Yoram Kaniuk
Hand in Hand Together by A.B. Yehoshua
2015: Festival moves to Mosaic Theater at the Atlas Performing Arts Center
After the War by Motti Lerner at the Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage Festival
Hkeelee (Talk to Me) written and performed by Leila Buck, presented at the National Museum of Women in the Arts for the Women’s Voices TheatreFestival
2015-16: Voices From a Changing Middle East: “The War Comes Home”
Wrestling Jerusalem by Aaron Davidman
I Shall Not Hate adapted by Izzeldin Abuelaish and Shay Pitovksy, from the memoir by Izzeldin Abuelaish
Eretz Chadasha (Promised Land) by Shachar Pinkas and Shay Pitovsky at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
After the War by Motti Lerner
Hkeelee (Talk to Me) written and performed by Leila Buck at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Kogod Cradle