This spring, the US capital’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is set to launch a new collaborative series with Sundance Institute:
This international theatre exchange will focus, in March, on two new Palestinian plays and a collaborative work called Creative Tensions: HOME.
The first on the schedule is the English-language world premeire of Amer Hlehel’s Taha, translated and directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi. Taha is based on the life of Taha Muhammad Ali (1931–2011) and was adapted from Adina Hoffman’s award-winning biography of the poet, My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness.
Taha Muhammad Ali grew up in the Galilee andfled his home in 1948. He and his family lived for a year in Lebanon before managing to return to Nazareth, where he ran a souvenir shop and composed poems.
Amer Hlehel is also an acclaimed actor and director, and also the new artistic director of Al-Midan Theater in Haifa, which he told Haaretz remains an important part of the community:
For our audience, the theater is still a place to gather together, to express an opinion, to ask difficult questions and to not agree about things. Not just to come for two hours, enjoy it and go home – but also to be engaged. Subsidized repertory theater like Al-Midan has the best audience: Broad, which allows you to present them with significant things. It’s an open, dangerous audience because it’s critical, smart and understands, it’s not naive.
After D.C., Taha will be staged in London, at the Young Vic’s Maria studio, from July 5 to 15.
Also part of the D.C. series is Raeda Taha’s Where Can I Find Someone Like You, Ali? The one-woman show is written, produced, and performed by Taha, directed by Lina Abyad. It will be staged at the Kennedy Center on March 23 and 24 at 7:30p.m.
A staging at Beirut’s Babel Theatre in 2015 garnered not just regional coverage, but an unfortunately ethnographized, although positive, writeup in the New York Times. From the account in Al Akhbar:
It is a little story on the margins of the big story about the hijacking of the Sabena Flight 571 by a group of fedayeen (Palestinian guerilla fighters), narrated from the author’s perspective as the daughter of the group’s leader who died fighting Israeli commandos after the failure of the operation. Raeda was seven years old in 1972 when her father, Ali Taha, was martyred leaving behind a widow in the prime of her life and four girls, of whom she is the oldest, who will become the “daughters of the martyr.”
The third piece in the series is called Creative Tensions: HOME, and it’s set for March 25 at 2:00 p.m. It will be guided by moderator Philip Himberg, with speakers not yet named. A staging of a Creative Tensions: HOME last March brought together artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat and President of the American Refugee Committee Daniel Wordsworth.
Poetry by Taha Muhammad Ali, translated by Gabriel Levin, Peter Cole, and Yahya Hijazi.
And the Taha trailer: