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Between tonight and Nov. 21st, Theatre Or will present Voices from the Holy Land: A Festival of Staged Readings of Cutting-Edge Plays, co-sponsored by four North Carolina organizations and synagogues — the North Carolina Hillel in Chapel Hill, the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham, Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh — and the Consulate General of Israel in Atlanta, Georgia.
These five timely topical dramas by Israeli playwrights — performed by 30 of the area's finest actors and actresses at six different Triangle locations — include: "The Demonstration" by Elisheva Greenbaum, The Fist by Misha Shulman, Hard Love by Motti Lerner, "Masked Faces" by Ilan Hatzor, and Women's Minyan by Naomi Ragen. Burning Coal Theatre Company artistic director Jerome Davis will direct The Fist; John Feltch, who recently played Edgar in PlayMakers Repertory Company's production of King Lear, will direct "The Demonstration" and "Masked Faces"; and Joseph Megel of StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance will direct Hard Love and Women's Minyan.
Festival director and Theatre Or producing director Diane Gilboa says all the performances will be staged readings, with script in hand. "The idea [for this festival] actually came from a board member who asked, 'Wouldn't it be interesting if we could find a play on Arab-Israeli relations?'" she explains. "So, I started searching for those sorts of plays; and I read Canadian, American, and British plays.
"I made a research project out of it," Gilboa says. "I talked to other artistic directors and theaters. I actually had some Israeli plays that weren't on Arab-Israeli relations, and I started searching for plays in Israel as well.... I read a lot of plays; and when you sit down and read five or six in a row and think, 'All of these are interesting. I'd like to produce them all.'"
Gilboa says, "I wondered what to do with my little treasure trove. I wondered what the public would think of these plays. For the most part, they haven't been seen in this country. They're unique voices and sometimes a unique sensibility and treatment of a subject. I thought it would be nice to have a staged reading of one, and then I thought that if we were going to have a staged reading of one, then why not do more than one. So, I hit on the idea of a little festival to let the community hear these voices."
She adds, "I thought that some of the plays could be important plays, but I really can't decide that myself. So, I thought it would be important to get community feedback. We have interest in mounting a full production of as Israeli play in the future, so it was interest in Theatre Or's purpose, which is to produce theater with a Jewish perspective and universal appeal."
Gilboa says, "We open [the festival] with 'The Demonstration' and 'Masked Faces,' two one-acts. 'The Demonstration' shows the effects of the Intifada on an Israeli family as they sit through a terrorist attack waiting to learn if one of their daughters was on a bus that has just been blown up. 'Masked Faces' shows the effects of the Intifada on three brothers in a Palestinian family. Hopefully, these two plays will provide some timely little insight into what it is really like to live in the Middle East, in Israel and the territories."
She adds, "The Fist deals with the question of conscientious objection. Actually, it's selective conscientious objection. It asks if it's all right for an Israeli soldier to refuse to serve in the occupied territories, and not necessarily anywhere else. This is a three-generation debate about what it means to serve and protect....
"Women's Minyan has already been seen by over 250,000 people in Israel," Gilboa says. "...This play is based on a true story in which a woman flees her family and leaves behind 12 children, carrying a secret with her. Two years later, she comes back with a secular order permitting her to see her children whom the community has hidden from her. She convenes a minyan — a trial of 10 women — to judge her fitness to see her children.... It is a very powerful play."
Gilboa says, "Hard Love is a complicated, sophisticated contemporary romance between an ultra-orthodox woman and a secular intellectual who were married briefly 20 years earlier. They were forced to divorce when they were teens when the husband turned his back on religion. Now, their children have fallen in love, and they need to discuss this relationship. At the same time, because of their circumstances, they wonder if they can rekindle their own relationship. Are the differences between them too great, or is there hope for their relationship? The play poses questions about secular-religious relationships. It's a plea for tolerance and warning against extremism, wherever it may be found. It uses a love story to do this, which is kind of an interesting treatment."
Diane Gilboa adds, "I think these plays are very powerful. I also thought that having a forum where people could discuss their feelings about them afterwards would be very helpful. So, we have a post-performance discussion after every single performance, with artists and a facilitator and the audience. Some of the facilitators have national reputations. They have a variety of backgrounds. Some are scholars, rabbis, conflict-resolution facilitators, editors. Two of them are coming in from out of town. So, this is an attempt to use art in an educational way — hopefully, to promote dialogue."
Theatre Or presents Voices From The Holy Land: A Festival Of Staged Readings Of Cutting-Edge Plays: "The Demonstration" and "Masked Faces" (Thursday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m. at Hillel, 210 West Cameron Ave., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sunday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Beth Meyer Synagogue, 504 Newton Rd., Raleigh, NC; Monday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in Thompson Studio Theatre, 2241 Dunn Ave., at N.C. State University in Raleigh, NC; Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, 1415 Faber St., at Duke University in Durham, NC; and Sunday, Nov. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W. Cornwallis Rd., Durham, NC); Women's Minyan (Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in Swain Hall on Cameron Ave. at UNC-Chapel Hill; Sunday, Nov. 14, at 4:30 p.m. at Beth Meyer Synagogue; and November 21 at 4:30 p.m. at the Judea Reform Congregation); The Fist (Sunday, Nov. 14, at 1:30 p.m. at Beth Meyer Synagogue; Thursday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life; and Sunday, November 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Judea Reform Congregation); and Hard Love (Saturday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. at the Judea Reform Congregation). $30 three-play festival pass or $12 per play ($5 students and college students with ID). 919/990-1994 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: There will be post-performance discussions with scholars, community leaders, artists, and/or conflict resolution facilitators. Theatre Or: http://www.theatreor.org/.