"Theatre's Role in Understanding Gaza" – The Guardian, UK

Is it frivolous to be making or talking about theatre while people are dying in Gaza? That was one of the issues raised at last weekend'sDevoted and Disgruntled, particularly as Saturday's sessions coincided with the demonstration against Israel's actions in Gaza. As one theatre-maker observed: "I want to feel useful, not decorative."

As those of us who marched against the invasion of Iraq know all too well, demonstrating in a democracy often changes nothing. But can theatre do more? Can it engage quickly with such crises, and can it play a part – if not in fixing the world, then at least in helping to change it? Or are we just kidding ourselves? After all, the South African government wasn't exactly trembling during apartheid just because London audiences were on their feet cheering the cast of Poppie Nongena.

As one D&D participant pointed out, making a piece of theatre is time-consuming – and by the time you've made it, the urgency of the moment has often passed. In a subsequent conversation, Chris Goode recounted how when he was at Camden People's theatre, it was possible to quickly make and mount a piece about the coming war in Iraq that then played in the theatre the week the first bombs were dropped.

But that's the exception rather than the rule: take Called to Account, which didn't play at the Tricycle until 2007. Because of access to space and resources, and the fact that programming happens so far in advance, it is often difficult for theatre to achieve that kind of immediacy. The poets of the first world war could produce their poems instantly, but it took 10 years for a masterpiece such as Journey's End to emerge.

Does this mean that a show about Guantánamo Bay, staged several years after the camp was set up, is the theatrical equivalent of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted? Or can it help to shake us out of our complacency? Are there some issues that are so sensitive that it feels too soon to tackle them, rather than too late?

Edinburgh in 2002 was full of American students emoting about the twin towers in a way that felt like drama was therapy, rather than incisive political comment. On the other hand, young US companies such as The Team (whose Architecting was at Edinburgh last year) seem engaged with trying to explore the psyche of their nation, much more so than their UK counterparts, who seem content to leave that kind of thing to David Hare.

If you do succeed in making a piece, what is the best form and function? Too much metaphor can be a cloak against the rawness and immediacy of what's going on. And although, at the very least, the piece might inform, often it's only preaching to the converted. I've seen some fantastic shows about the human cost of our asylum policies, but it is government ministers who should be seeing them, and they never show up.

Does that mean that theatre should just wring its hands and do nothing? Theatre quite patently can't fix Gaza, but perhaps it can help explain it. There's something honest, even mature, about acknowledging our powerlessness. It is a spur not to giving up, but to going on – even if it sometimes feels as if we are merely stumbling around in the dark.

New Theatre School: Freedom Theatre & Arab American University

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Course administration

  • Juliano Mer Khamis – General and Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre
  • Samia Stetti – Program Director, the Freedom Theatre
  • Zakariya Haj Hamad – Director of the Continuing Education Center, the Arab American University
  • Fatimah Arsheed – Head of the Courses Department, the Continuing Education Center, the Arab American University
  • Jonatan Stanczak – Strategic Program Section
  • Nabil al-Rai – Education Coordinator
  • Shirin Maher Faz'a – Theatre Secretary

Teaching and training staff

The teaching and training staff for the course is highly professional and experienced. Each staff member has no fewer than four years' experience in teaching or training in their respective specialist field, and has Palestinian or various other nationalities. The following is a list of some of the teachers and trainers:

  • Muhammad Bakri (Bei'neh) – The role of the actor
  • Juliano Mer Khamis (Haifa) – Acting
  • Nabil al-Rai (Bethlehem) – Improvisation
  • Rim al-Lau (Ramallah) – Voice and song
  • Petra al-Barghouti (Ramallah) – Drama therapy and applied theatre
  • Francois Abu Salem (Jerusalem) – Acting and community theatre
  • Jan Lolius (Sweden) – Text analysis
  • Barit Louise (Sweden) – Acting and cinema
  • Lin Rinous (Sweden) – Stage design
  • Gunar Perjuston (Sweden) – Theatre techniques
  • Salim Dau (Haifa) – Masks and Comedy dell'Arte
  • Yousef Abu Wardi (Haifa) – Acting
  • Amer Hlehel (Haifa) – Theatre games
  • Ayman Aun (Ramallah) – Forum Theatre
  • Ibrahim Mazen (Ramallah) – Text analysis
  • Dr. Mirfet Iyash (Jenin) – Fine arts
  • Michael Yansoun (Sweden) – Physical theatre
  • Harald Nilson (Sweden) – Voice and song
  • Nidal Khatib (Bethlehem) – Puppet theatre
  • David Say (USA) – Movement
  • Aster Alyout (USA) – Shakespearean theatre
  • Dr. Ayman Yousef (Jenin) – History of Palestine
  • Dr. Jamal Hanaysha (Jenin) – Social studies
  • Dr. Zakariya Haj Hamad (Jenin) – English language
  • Mohammed Abu al-Rab (Jenin) -Arabic language
  • Robert Lions (Sweden) – History of Theatre and theatrical theatre
  • Professor Suzanne Austen (Sweden) – Youth and children's theatre
  • Professor Lina Fardel (Sweden) – Dramaturgy

Members of the Palestinian Board of Directors of the Freedom Theatre

  • Dr. Mervat Ayiash (Chair Person)
  • Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLC Member and Founder of MIFTAH
  • Wafaa Habb-AlReeh, President of the Palestinian Women's Union
  • George Ibrahim, Director of Al Kasaba Theatre
  • Bassima Abu Nami, Director of Al Muntada in Jenin
  • Said Murad, General Manager of Sabreen Association for Art Production
  • Bilal Assaadi, Merchant
  • Sumaia Hajj Ibrahim, Teacher
  • Jamal Tubasi, Merchant

The Freedom Theatre is registered as a Palestinian non-governmental organization and as a Swedish foundation, and has a separate board of directors.

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The Freedom Theatre Foundation – Ägostigen 5, SPÅNGA, 163 44, Sweden

Theaters Against War (THAW) – 2008 Scholarship Fund and Recipients

Theaters Against War (THAW) (http://www.thawaction.org)

presents

A benefit evening at The Living Theatre to raise money for the THAW 2008
Scholarship Fund and to honor the 2007 THAW Scholarship recipients:

Al-Harah (Palestine) and Rapsida (Rwanda)

with live performances, video and refreshments

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

at The Living Theatre
21 Clinton Street
New York City

$10-$20 suggested contribution (pay what you can, no one turned away)

21 Clinton Street is between Houston and Stanton Streets; Clinton Street
is the continuation of Avenue B south of Houston. The Living Theatre is
accessible to people with disabilities: ring The Living Theatre at street
level for elevator assistance. Telephone: (212) 792-8050

The annual THAW Scholarship is awarded to an artist or group of artists
making theater in conflict or "post-conflict" areas.

For more information on the 2007 recipients visit
http://www.alharah.org
http://www.rapsida.blogspot.com and
http://www.thawaction.org

Born in Bethlehem by Al-Harah Theatre (Palestine)

Born in Bethlehem by Al-Harah Theatre (Palestine)
 
A unique opportunity to see Palestinian theatre in UK.
 
'Born in Bethlehem' is a new piece of work devised by Al-Harah, themselves based in Beit Jala, close to Bethlehem. The play takes the  form of a guided tour through Bethlehem, with the audience as the sight-seers.  The tour includes a performance of the Nativity story. But the characters of  Mary and Joseph soon encounter all the problems of present day Palestinians:  the dividing wall and security checks.
Al-Harah Theatre has the experience of producing shows for adults, young people and children, community work and numerous international tours from New York to Japan. They bring an unusual scenic minimalism in their approach to theatre making, partly because  of the conditions they have to work under. However, every word and gesture matters. The most refreshing thing about Born in Bethlehem is that it isn't a political pamphlet; it depicts the global problem of Palestinians through the  eyes of ordinary people who just happen to be Palestinian. Their stories of life under occupation are absurd as they are touching. An hour for everyone who wants to watch, feel, learn and most importantly – think.
 
Born in Bethlehem is performed in English. It will be touring the UK 19 April-9 May  2008.
 
For more information contact Milan Govedarica:  milan.govedarica@gmail.com
 
 
Leeds (sold out)                                     Friday 18 April 7pm
Hosted by School of PCI, Leeds University and West Yorkshire Playhouse
School of Performance and Cultural Industries
Leeds University, Leeds LS2 9JT
Information: 0113 343 8725
 
Manchester                          Saturday 19 April 8pm                                                                                                                                  £10 (concs £6)
Contact, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6JA
Box Office: 0161 274 0600
 
York                                         Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 April 7.45pm                                £10 (concs £5)
York Theatre Royal, St Leonard's Place, York, YO1 7HD
Box Office: (01904) 623568
 
London                                   Saturday 26 – Tuesday 29 April 7.30pm                                 £10 (concs £7)
Tara Studio, 356 Garratt Lane, London, SW18 4ES
Box Office: 0208 333 4457 www.tara-arts.com or www.ticketweb.co.uk
 
Plymouth                              Thursday 1 – Friday 2 May 7.30pm                                         £5 (concs £3.5)
Desmond Tutu Centre, University College Plymouth St Mark & St John, Derriford Road, Plymouth  PL6 8BH
Box Office:  01752 636700  www.marjon.ac.uk
 
Great Torrington (Devon )           Saturday May 3,  8.30pm
The Plough Arts Centre
9-11 Fore Street
Great Torrington
Devon EX38 8HQ
Box Office: 01805 624624  http://www.plough-arts.org/
 
Mold (North Wales)          Thursday 8 May 7.45pm                                                                 £9 (concs £7)
Emlyn William Theatre at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold                                                                                   
Box Office: 0845 330 3565 www.clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk

TWENTY ONE POSITIONS: A Cartographic Dream of the Middle East at Fordham U in NYC

TWENTY ONE

POSITIONS:

A Cartographic Dream of the Middle East

by Abdelfattah Abusrour,

Lisa Schlesinger & Naomi Wallace

with music by Gina Leishman

directed by Lisa Peterson

Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Department of Theatre & Visual Arts

113 West 60th Street #423 NYC 10023

www.fordham.edu/theatre

Fordham University Theatre Company

in association with the Public Theater presents: TWENTY ONE POSITIONS:

A Cartographic Dream of the Middle East

by Abdelfattah Abusrour, Lisa Schlesinger

& Naomi Wallace

with music by Gina Leishman

directed by Lisa Peterson

Set Design by Rachel Hauck

Lighting Design by Chad McArver Costume Design by Michelle Phillips

Sound Design by Lindsay Jones

Production Stage Manager: Donald Fried

Graphic Design by Erich Bussing

February 21 – March 1, 2008

Pope Auditorium, 113 West 60th Street (at 9th Ave)

Box Office: 212-636-6340

Thursday, February 21st at 8:00 PM*

Friday, February 22nd at 8:00 PM

Saturday, February 23rd at 8:00 PM

Monday, February 25th at 8:00 PM

Thurday, February 28th at 12:00 PM & 8:00 PM*

Friday, February 29th at 8:00 PM

Saturday, March 1st at 8:00 PM

*$2 Student Night!

** "The Wall on stage" Symposium Tuesday February 26th @ 6 PM

Note: To guarantee your seats, we strongly recommend paying for & picking up your tickets at the box office prior to the performance. Please call 212-636-6340 for box office hours. Unpaid tickets not picked up 15 minutes prior to curtain time may be sold to patrons on the waiting list.

US Kennedy Center offers Arts Management Training in Ramallah and Johannesburg

Michael Kaiser And the Quest For a New Global Theater
Kennedy Center Chief Helps A Ramallah Troupe Facing Some Very Real Roadblocks

By Noga Tarnopolsky
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 22, 2007; C01

RAMALLAH, West Bank — One weekend earlier this month, Michael Kaiser, the Kennedy Center's workaholic president ("it doesn't matter where I am, I am always at work"), flew briefly to Michigan to visit his sister, who had been unwell, then turned around and flew, via Newark, to Tel Aviv. From there, he made his way to Ramallah, where he stood, like so many other American emissaries, in a tidy suit and tie, foreign but at ease, on a sidewalk amid the dust and bustle.

Kaiser, the turnaround virtuoso who rescued from financial ruin the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation, American Ballet Theatre and, before coming to the Kennedy Center, London's Royal Opera House, has developed an almost messianic urge to teach the art of arts management to struggling cultural institutions around the globe.

"I am very anxious that the cultural ecologies of the countries of the world be healthy," he says. He sees the Kennedy Center as "the national cultural center" and as such, believes it has both national and international responsibilities. Among the other initiatives undertaken during his tenure, which began in 2001, Kaiser has established the Kennedy Center Arts Management Institute, which provides advanced training for young arts administrators. He's also set up the Capacity Building Program for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations, which offers mentoring services to the leaders of 35 African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American arts groups from across the United States.

It is this compulsion (plus a major Kennedy Center festival of the arts of Arab lands, planned for early 2009) that took him last March to a Kennedy Center-sponsored symposium in Cairo at which he presented a workshop to 140 arts administrators from 17 Arab nations.

"One thing we learned," he says, laughing lightly, "is that not all Arabs like each other that much."

Kaiser's spiel to foreigners includes an admission that most countries get their fill of American culture, be it through TV, movies, popular music or computer games. It also includes a brief history lesson: "The Puritans founded the United States, and they were not big fans of the performing arts, so we never had central government support, and we've had to develop alternate sources. That kind of expertise is something we can export."

What kind of expertise is he talking about applying overseas? One example: During his brief tenure at the Royal Opera, he raised $100 million in 18 months, thus delivering the dangerously debilitated institution a robust future.

At the Cairo symposium, George Ibrahim, the director of Ramallah's Al-Kasaba Theater and Cinematheque, posed a challenge. Kaiser recalls: "George is very sophisticated and stood out among the group. He challenged me: 'How much of this do you really think can work in Palestine? I would like you to come and see our reality.' And I said, 'Fine, I'll come.' I'm not sure he believed me."

He should have. When Kaiser accepted Ibrahim's dare, he was simultaneously involved with major long-term projects in China and Mexico, planning a Latin American symposium in Buenos Aires for next April, and continuing to consult for any number of arts institutions, including South Africa's Market Theatre (not to mention the Arab arts festival, which will bring artists from 22 nations to the Kennedy Center). So it was that on a recent Saturday morning, Ibrahim, a genial, barrel-bellied actor, scriptwriter, translator and theatrical impresario, picked Kaiser up at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport and drove him the short geographical distance and long conceptual voyage to Ramallah, the cultural capital of the Palestinian territories.

The day before had been spent getting to know the landscape, both human and topographic. Kaiser was driven around the town, so that he could get to know the place. He met with a number of arts leaders to learn about the challenges they face.

Ramallah is a low-slung desert city sprawling over innumerable soft hills and valleys, flooded with light. If anything, it resembles Jerusalem, its neighbor about nine miles to the south: Jeans-clad men amble its dusty streets with cigarettes dangling from their mouths, hot roasted peanuts are sold from carts in huge piles, and schoolgirls in uniforms and hair-coverings march obediently behind their teachers. A majority Christian city, it is both traditionalist and ready for change. Most of the few women seen in the downtown crowds are covered by headscarves, but the Ramallah city council recently voted a Christian, Janet Michael, as its first female mayor.

Kaiser held individual assessment sessions on Saturday with almost everyone associated with Al-Kasaba, from actors through administrators to members of the board, each for about 45 minutes. The sessions were all in English. By the end of the day, he had four pages of densely and methodically scribbled notes. One example, "Why only 1,000 people on e-mail list?"

"E-mail is an obvious, cheap way of reaching people — 500 or 600 people come to this theater most nights; there is no reason you can't raffle off a dinner at the restaurant to people who fill out their e-mail address and get this list up to maybe 10,000 people with very little effort," he said before adding: "But look, I've been here 24 hours. I barely know the place."

Al-Kasaba was founded in June 2000, as an offshoot of a theater troupe that had its roots in Jerusalem in the early 1970s, when Ibrahim was an Israeli superstar: At age 21, he was Sammy in "Sammy and Susu," a pioneering children's TV program that drew universal devotion from both Arabic and Hebrew speakers.

Today, Al-Kasaba is at once a remarkable success and a struggling enterprise. In addition to offering original works in Arabic, created for the theater, and foreign plays that have been translated and adapted, it contains the only regularly functioning cinema in all the Palestinian territories (four film screenings a day, with films ranging from popular Egyptian blockbusters to refined international fare), a fashionable restaurant and a pub distinguished by a sensual, undulating wooden bar laden with bottles.

But Al-Kasaba faces problems both specific and universal. Specifically, roadblocks prevent much of its West Bank audience from attending events; the Palestinian economy suffers from an endemic lack of predictability; political events can override any cultural ambition; and theater is not an integral part of local culture. And, as is true in more and more countries, it is also more and more difficult to get people out of the house. Potential audiences prefer the laze of cyber-surfing, cable, rental DVDs and living room music systems.

To add to the challenges, Ibrahim wants to open a theater arts school. In fact, he wants to double Al-Kasaba's expenses in the next three years, an ambition not necessarily shared by the many international and few local organizations that fund most of his projects.

Ibrahim and Kaiser cemented a long-term relationship during the visit. The Kennedy Center and Al-Kasaba will co-produce a work for young people and the theater will be part of the Arab Festival in two years. Kaiser will consult with Ibrahim, especially on the fundraising.

Ibrahim says he wants to bring Al-Kasaba, eventually, to a point where the artists can think only about art and not "about paying the rent and the bills and whether or not we can survive next year." To this end, before Ibrahim's encounter with Kaiser, Al-Kasaba already was working on a long-term strategic plan.

One of the things Kaiser said when he sat down with the assembled staff at Al-Kasaba on Sunday, at the workshop/meeting called for 10 a.m., was that the goal is "great art well marketed."

"Very few arts organizations are as professional and sophisticated as this organization — you are very impressive in the quality of your work, in the knowledge of staff about your areas. This is one of the things I am concerned about for Palestine and frankly for most countries.

"I'm interested in role-model organizations — I'd like to see your excellent organization become a role model, organizationally and artistically, not just for Palestine, but for much of this part of the world. You've got a great product, wonderful art. Believe me, this is not something I can say at many of the places I visit. But the marketing is so episodic! And you've got no one doing press. No one! How can anyone know what you are doing? I mean, oy." His head fell briefly to his hands.

If Kaiser is the prophet of well-run arts organizations as harbingers of national renaissance, it is, he says, a homage to Barney Simon, the founder of Johannesburg's Market Theatre, whom he met in late 1994 when he was a New York-based consultant to arts organizations.

"The Rockefeller Foundation asked me to travel to South Africa for three weeks, and just as I was reading a New York Times article about Barney Simon, Barney Simon called on the phone. The only time we could meet was midnight the next day. We ended up talking until 4 in the morning."

Simon died in 1995, but the Market Theatre has become one of new South Africa's showcase cultural jewels. Kaiser came to believe in art as a form of human liberation. "Art is really one of the only ways people can get to know each other," he says. "You don't get to know anyone through reading about politics. You get to know someone through learning about what worries him, what he finds beautiful. When I brought the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra to the Kennedy Center, most people said simply that they did not know Iraq had a symphony."

"Michael Kaiser is a dynamic and impressive leader for the Kennedy Center," says Sen. Edward Kennedy, who sits on the organization's board. "He is also a tireless advocate for broadening worldwide understanding of the important role that the arts have in all of our lives. He is a truly wonderful ambassador for the arts and for America."

Late Sunday night, after dinner, Ibrahim ferried Kaiser back to Tel Aviv for a few hours repose before a dawn flight back to Washington.

And that is a weekend in the life of Michael Kaiser.

Kennedy Center US offers Arts Management Training in Ramallah and South Africa

Michael Kaiser And the Quest For a New Global Theater
Kennedy Center Chief Helps A Ramallah Troupe Facing Some Very Real Roadblocks

By Noga Tarnopolsky
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 22, 2007; C01

RAMALLAH, West Bank — One weekend earlier this month, Michael Kaiser, the Kennedy Center's workaholic president ("it doesn't matter where I am, I am always at work"), flew briefly to Michigan to visit his sister, who had been unwell, then turned around and flew, via Newark, to Tel Aviv. From there, he made his way to Ramallah, where he stood, like so many other American emissaries, in a tidy suit and tie, foreign but at ease, on a sidewalk amid the dust and bustle.

Kaiser, the turnaround virtuoso who rescued from financial ruin the Kansas City Ballet, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation, American Ballet Theatre and, before coming to the Kennedy Center, London's Royal Opera House, has developed an almost messianic urge to teach the art of arts management to struggling cultural institutions around the globe.

"I am very anxious that the cultural ecologies of the countries of the world be healthy," he says. He sees the Kennedy Center as "the national cultural center" and as such, believes it has both national and international responsibilities. Among the other initiatives undertaken during his tenure, which began in 2001, Kaiser has established the Kennedy Center Arts Management Institute, which provides advanced training for young arts administrators. He's also set up the Capacity Building Program for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations, which offers mentoring services to the leaders of 35 African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American arts groups from across the United States.

It is this compulsion (plus a major Kennedy Center festival of the arts of Arab lands, planned for early 2009) that took him last March to a Kennedy Center-sponsored symposium in Cairo at which he presented a workshop to 140 arts administrators from 17 Arab nations.

"One thing we learned," he says, laughing lightly, "is that not all Arabs like each other that much."

Kaiser's spiel to foreigners includes an admission that most countries get their fill of American culture, be it through TV, movies, popular music or computer games. It also includes a brief history lesson: "The Puritans founded the United States, and they were not big fans of the performing arts, so we never had central government support, and we've had to develop alternate sources. That kind of expertise is something we can export."

What kind of expertise is he talking about applying overseas? One example: During his brief tenure at the Royal Opera, he raised $100 million in 18 months, thus delivering the dangerously debilitated institution a robust future.

At the Cairo symposium, George Ibrahim, the director of Ramallah's Al-Kasaba Theater and Cinematheque, posed a challenge. Kaiser recalls: "George is very sophisticated and stood out among the group. He challenged me: 'How much of this do you really think can work in Palestine? I would like you to come and see our reality.' And I said, 'Fine, I'll come.' I'm not sure he believed me."

He should have. When Kaiser accepted Ibrahim's dare, he was simultaneously involved with major long-term projects in China and Mexico, planning a Latin American symposium in Buenos Aires for next April, and continuing to consult for any number of arts institutions, including South Africa's Market Theatre (not to mention the Arab arts festival, which will bring artists from 22 nations to the Kennedy Center). So it was that on a recent Saturday morning, Ibrahim, a genial, barrel-bellied actor, scriptwriter, translator and theatrical impresario, picked Kaiser up at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport and drove him the short geographical distance and long conceptual voyage to Ramallah, the cultural capital of the Palestinian territories.

The day before had been spent getting to know the landscape, both human and topographic. Kaiser was driven around the town, so that he could get to know the place. He met with a number of arts leaders to learn about the challenges they face.

Ramallah is a low-slung desert city sprawling over innumerable soft hills and valleys, flooded with light. If anything, it resembles Jerusalem, its neighbor about nine miles to the south: Jeans-clad men amble its dusty streets with cigarettes dangling from their mouths, hot roasted peanuts are sold from carts in huge piles, and schoolgirls in uniforms and hair-coverings march obediently behind their teachers. A majority Christian city, it is both traditionalist and ready for change. Most of the few women seen in the downtown crowds are covered by headscarves, but the Ramallah city council recently voted a Christian, Janet Michael, as its first female mayor.

Kaiser held individual assessment sessions on Saturday with almost everyone associated with Al-Kasaba, from actors through administrators to members of the board, each for about 45 minutes. The sessions were all in English. By the end of the day, he had four pages of densely and methodically scribbled notes. One example, "Why only 1,000 people on e-mail list?"

"E-mail is an obvious, cheap way of reaching people — 500 or 600 people come to this theater most nights; there is no reason you can't raffle off a dinner at the restaurant to people who fill out their e-mail address and get this list up to maybe 10,000 people with very little effort," he said before adding: "But look, I've been here 24 hours. I barely know the place."

Al-Kasaba was founded in June 2000, as an offshoot of a theater troupe that had its roots in Jerusalem in the early 1970s, when Ibrahim was an Israeli superstar: At age 21, he was Sammy in "Sammy and Susu," a pioneering children's TV program that drew universal devotion from both Arabic and Hebrew speakers.

Today, Al-Kasaba is at once a remarkable success and a struggling enterprise. In addition to offering original works in Arabic, created for the theater, and foreign plays that have been translated and adapted, it contains the only regularly functioning cinema in all the Palestinian territories (four film screenings a day, with films ranging from popular Egyptian blockbusters to refined international fare), a fashionable restaurant and a pub distinguished by a sensual, undulating wooden bar laden with bottles.

But Al-Kasaba faces problems both specific and universal. Specifically, roadblocks prevent much of its West Bank audience from attending events; the Palestinian economy suffers from an endemic lack of predictability; political events can override any cultural ambition; and theater is not an integral part of local culture. And, as is true in more and more countries, it is also more and more difficult to get people out of the house. Potential audiences prefer the laze of cyber-surfing, cable, rental DVDs and living room music systems.

To add to the challenges, Ibrahim wants to open a theater arts school. In fact, he wants to double Al-Kasaba's expenses in the next three years, an ambition not necessarily shared by the many international and few local organizations that fund most of his projects.

Ibrahim and Kaiser cemented a long-term relationship during the visit. The Kennedy Center and Al-Kasaba will co-produce a work for young people and the theater will be part of the Arab Festival in two years. Kaiser will consult with Ibrahim, especially on the fundraising.

Ibrahim says he wants to bring Al-Kasaba, eventually, to a point where the artists can think only about art and not "about paying the rent and the bills and whether or not we can survive next year." To this end, before Ibrahim's encounter with Kaiser, Al-Kasaba already was working on a long-term strategic plan.

One of the things Kaiser said when he sat down with the assembled staff at Al-Kasaba on Sunday, at the workshop/meeting called for 10 a.m., was that the goal is "great art well marketed."

"Very few arts organizations are as professional and sophisticated as this organization — you are very impressive in the quality of your work, in the knowledge of staff about your areas. This is one of the things I am concerned about for Palestine and frankly for most countries.

"I'm interested in role-model organizations — I'd like to see your excellent organization become a role model, organizationally and artistically, not just for Palestine, but for much of this part of the world. You've got a great product, wonderful art. Believe me, this is not something I can say at many of the places I visit. But the marketing is so episodic! And you've got no one doing press. No one! How can anyone know what you are doing? I mean, oy." His head fell briefly to his hands.

If Kaiser is the prophet of well-run arts organizations as harbingers of national renaissance, it is, he says, a homage to Barney Simon, the founder of Johannesburg's Market Theatre, whom he met in late 1994 when he was a New York-based consultant to arts organizations.

"The Rockefeller Foundation asked me to travel to South Africa for three weeks, and just as I was reading a New York Times article about Barney Simon, Barney Simon called on the phone. The only time we could meet was midnight the next day. We ended up talking until 4 in the morning."

Simon died in 1995, but the Market Theatre has become one of new South Africa's showcase cultural jewels. Kaiser came to believe in art as a form of human liberation. "Art is really one of the only ways people can get to know each other," he says. "You don't get to know anyone through reading about politics. You get to know someone through learning about what worries him, what he finds beautiful. When I brought the Baghdad Symphony Orchestra to the Kennedy Center, most people said simply that they did not know Iraq had a symphony."

"Michael Kaiser is a dynamic and impressive leader for the Kennedy Center," says Sen. Edward Kennedy, who sits on the organization's board. "He is also a tireless advocate for broadening worldwide understanding of the important role that the arts have in all of our lives. He is a truly wonderful ambassador for the arts and for America."

Late Sunday night, after dinner, Ibrahim ferried Kaiser back to Tel Aviv for a few hours repose before a dawn flight back to Washington.

And that is a weekend in the life of Michael Kaiser.

Aswat: Voices of Palestine

 

Aswat: Voices of Palestine 

A two-day program of readings by playwrights of Palestinian and Arab descent and playwrights of other backgrounds exploring Palestinian themes

Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6

LOEWE THEATRE
TISCH SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
721 BROADWAY, 2ND FLOOR

All tickets are free!
To reserve tickets, call 212-780-9037 x123.

Presented by New York Theatre Workshop and Nibras
in partnership with the Drama Department
of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

 

About Aswat: Voices of Palestine

Part of New York Theatre Workshop’s ongoing series of Public Programs, Aswat: Voices of Palestine, is a two-day program of readings by playwrights of Palestinian and Arab descent and playwrights of other backgrounds exploring Palestinian themes. The event, which will take place at NYU’s 74-seat Loewe Theatre, will begin with welcoming remarks and a keynote overview of Palestinian theatre past and present.  The readings will be followed by moderated discussions that will provide a stimulating opportunity for audience members and artists to discuss the plays and the issues embedded in them.  Aswat is the Arabic word for "voices".

New York Theatre Workshop aims to present invigorating theatrical productions and events that reflect and respond to our world. In the spring of 2006, NYTW began a series of dialogues with Najla Saïd, Leila Buck, and Nathalie Handal of the Arab-American theatre collective Nibras concerning the complex issues surrounding artistic output from and about Palestine . In the course of these conversations, NYTW and Nibras discovered a mutual passion for using theatre to pose challenging questions and expose points of view that have been obscured or silenced by polarizing social and political forces. NYTW and Nibras thus found a shared call to action to provide opportunities for hidden voices from Palestine to be heard by a wider audience. 

New York Theatre Workshop named Nibras a company-in-residence at NYTW and invited Ms. Saïd, Ms. Buck, and Ms. Handal to join its extended community of affiliate artists, the Usual Suspects. Nibras’s first project with NYTW is Aswat: Voices of Palestine.

Learn more about Nibras

Schedule of events for Aswat: Voices of Palestine

All events take place at NYU's Loewe Theatre,
721 Broadway, 2nd Floor

Saturday, May 5

Session 1
12pm, Welcoming Remarks/Program Overview by Juliano Mer Khamis 

12:30pm, Break (coffee/tea/light snacks provided) 

1pm, Reading: Last Train to Jerusalem by Fuad Abboud, directed by Will Frears

Discussion Themes: representing history, use of metaphor and allegory

Discussion Moderator: Catherine Coray 

3:30pm, Break 

Session 2
4pm, Reading and Discussion: It Happened in a Place Called Palestine by Razanne Carmey, directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde; Sharon and My Mother-in Law by Suad Amiry, stage adaptation by Afaf Shawwa, directed by Kareem Fahmy; and Deir Yassin: The Stonecutters by Nathalie Handal, directed by Sturgis Warner

Discussion Themes: using true/historical stories, hakawati influence (“hakawati" means “storyteller” in Arabic and refers to the long tradition of storytelling in the Arab world)

Discussion Moderator: Hala Nassar 

6:30pm, Break 

Session 3
7:
30pm, Reading and Discussion: Between This Breath and You by Naomi Wallace, directed by Isis Saratial Misdary

Discussion Themes: co-existence, race and class in Palestinian/Israeli relations, linked lives, politics of non-Arabs writing about Palestine

Discussion Moderator: Juliano Mer Khamis 

Sunday, May 6

Session 4< strong>
2:00pm, Reading and Discussion: Born in Bethlehem: The Last Clown by Sami Metwasi/Al-Harah Theater, directed by Johanna McKeon; Food and Fadwa or Eklitl Hob by Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader, directed by Shoshana Gold; and The Monologist Suffers Her Monologue by Yussef El Guindi, directed by Piter Marek 

Discussion Themes: removing the fourth wall, European/collective influences on Palestinian theatre, use of humor and irony

Discussion Moderator: Dalia Basiouny 

4:30pm, Closing Reception (wine/cheese provided) 

(All programs and participants subject to change, please check www.nytw.org for updates.)

 

Free tickets may be reserved by
calling NYTW at 212-780-9037 x123.

Each session requires a separate reservation. 
Remaining tickets available at the door.