WHEN MY BROTHER FELL

When video was released of Alton Sperling’s murder, then Philando Castile’s I was consumed with so many feelings ranging from rage, despair, horror, heartache, profound grief and more.

My feelings overtook me. Words failed me. I sat and wept. Wept hard.

I skulked around on FB, reading others’ responses…looking for… what? I don’t rightly know but I very quickly found myself trying to make sense out of the surreal juxtaposition of posts filled with rage about these men’s horrific murders and posts celebrating other life events from births and birthdays to show openings. I got off FB. I went out into the world to connect, face to face, hand in hand with other human beings – especially with people I had not met before. To see and be seen. To touch and be touched. Consciously creating moments of physical, human connectivity. 

Now Dallas. More videos. More rage. More tears.

When, WHEN will the killing stop? What is it that we have to do to get it to stop? WHAT? Just tell me and I will be the first to do it!

As the imitable Chuck Cooper wrote: Race erupted as the catalyst for the civil war. That war did not end, it merely went somewhat dormant erupting in lynchings, the Black Wall Street bombings, the new Jim Crow judicial system and many other systematic culturally ingrained mechanisms designed to sustain white supremacy and privilege. Race, or it’s synonym white supremacy virtually ignored from the very beginning of this country will either be confronted and dismantled or it will divide and destroy us.

Take a read of Michael Eric Dyson’s piece in the NY Times, WHAT WHITE AMERICA FAILS TO SEE, or the Op-Ed piece by Lezley Mcspadden, MICHAEL BROWN’S MOTHER ON DEAD BLACK SONS.

Powerful words. More articulate than I could ever begin to be on any of this and if those articles don’t move you to think, to take action, TO CHANGE then read this stunning poem by Essex Hemphill.  It came to me via my colleague and friend, the exquisite playwright Harrison Rivers.

I’m headed out, to connect face to face, eye to eye, hand in hand.

When we meet, let us embrace, get real and take action to lift our fellow human beings up, not extinguish their lives.

We CAN put an end to this violence.

Blessed be.

 

WHEN MY BROTHER FELL

by essex hemphill
(For Joseph Beam)
From “Ceremonies”

When my brother fell
I picked up his weapons
and never once questioned
whether I could carry
the weight and grief,
the responsibility he shouldered.
I never questioned
whether I could aim
or be as precise as he.
He had fallen,
and the passing ceremonies
marking his death
did not stop the war.

Standing at the front lines
flanked by able brothers
who miss his eloquent courage,
his insistent voice
urging us to rebel,
urging us to not fear embracing
for more than sex,
for more than kisses
and notches in our belts.

Our loss is greater
than all the space
we fill with prayers
and praise.
He burned out
his pure life force
to bring us a chance
to love ourselves
with commitment.
He knew the simple
spilling of seed
would not be enough
to bind us.

It is difficult
to stop marching, Joseph,
impossible to stop our assault.
The tributes and testimonies
in your honor
flare up like torches.
Every night
a light blazes for you
in one of our hearts.

There was no one lonelier
than you, Joseph.
Perhaps you wanted love
so desperately and pleaded
with God for the only mercy
that could be spared.
Perhaps God knew
you couldn’t be given
more than public love
in this lifetime.

When I stand
on the front lines, now
cussing the lack of truth,
the absence of willful change
and strategic coalitions,
I realize sewing quilts
will not bring you back
nor save us.

It’s too soon
to make monuments
for all we are losing,
for the lack of truth
as to why we are dying,
who wants us dead,
what purpose does it serve?

When my brother fell
I picked up his weapons.
I didn’t question
whether I could aim
or be as precise as he.
A needle and thread
were not among
his things
I found.

#blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #listentoeachother

CULTURE SHOCK FESTIVAL on THE HIGH LINE

Artwork by George Manta
Artwork by George Manta

I am SO EXCITED about this Saturday April 23rd!!! From 12-4pm Friends of the High Line is offering an AMAZING and FREE one-of-a-kind celebration welcoming spring the CULTURE SHOCK FESTIVAL! 

All the way from Gansevoort Street to West 26th Street, performances by a diverse group of local artists, representing a wide variety of genres, will bring the High Line to life. Music, dance, poetry, comedy, storytelling, and spoken word will unite to make the entire day unforgettable!

Come check out  OV’s  “HOW THE I BECOMES THE WE” inspired by our storytelling workshop with the students of PS 347 The ASL and English Lower School and performed by Alexandria Wailes, John McGinty, Jon Riddleberger, Nicholas Corda.   Performing with us from PS 347 are Darren Fudenske, Onudeah Nicolarakis, Gary Wellbrock…directed by yours truly.

Our show is in American Sign Language and English at 2:30pm under The Standard Hotel at Little W. 12th Street…and it’s GREAT for kids of ALL ages!!

We strongly suggest you rsvp! Here is a direct link to that RSVP

Wheelchair access is available at Gansevoort (head north to find us) or W.14th St. (head south to find us). We can’t wait to see you on Saturday!

RAISE YOUR HAND & HELP US

OV-HD MylosWho missed me? Yes, it has been a long time since I’ve posted and I will catch you all up in the next week but in the meantime…I could really use your help!

We all know books play a crucial and vital role in a child’s development, and never more so than when that child is bilingual. OUR VOICES is building a storybook-workbook inspired by a three day collaborative storytelling workshop with first, second and third graders at PS347 The American Sign Language (ASL) and English Lower School in New York City but we need your help to make it a reality! Our goal is to be able to publish a print version as well as an iBook version with ASL integrated into the storytelling.

Our book is being illustrated by Broadway designers and Deaf artists and helps young students learn the concepts and elements of how to build a story. We are a little over our halfway mark and need to raise another $2K. If you contribute just $25 by April 1st, we guarantee that you will receive recognition in the book, a complementary copy and for each book purchased, a copy will be given to young students to treasure for years to come! NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL!

Please help give these students a gift that will inspire creativity and show that the seeds of their ideas can turn into magnificence. Show your support for by giving to our fundraising campaign here: HOW THE I BECOMES THE WE.

With gratitude,

Kim

OLIVER SACKS

 

Oliver Sacks

Thanksgiving. 1989. Walking into my parents’ bedroom I see, sitting on my father’s nightstand a book titled: SEEING VOICES. My first thought: “Isn’t that funny.” I move towards it, pick it up and reading the inside flap, I think: “Oh, yeah, cool.” then, I scurry off with it squirreling away into a nook to be alone with Oliver Sacks. Devouring page after page I felt every cell in my body respond with “YES!”.

New York Live Arts/Live Ideas. April. 2013. I’m invited to direct Pinter’s A KIND OF ALASKA inspired by Oliver’s book AWAKENINGS in celebration of Oliver’s 80th birthday. PINCH ME!! I hadn’t dreamed this dream but Lawrence Weschler and Bill T. Jones had the vision and then the generosity of spirit to invite me to share it with them.

Two worlds, the hearing and the Deaf are brought together with Bill Morrison’s stunning film, of newly found footage of Oliver awakening patients, being the bridge between the two worlds.

There’s a gorgeous cast of hearing actors directed by Karen Kohlhaas – Lisa Emery, Reed Birney and Rebecca Henderson. A glorious cast of gifted Deaf actors, Terrylene Sacchetti, Alexandria Wailes and Lewis Merkin directed by me with a tenacious team that includes Corrie Pond, Marlee Faye Koenigsberg, Jon Wolfe Nelson, Anna Carter, Paul Carey, Dave Polato and the indomitable Kori Rushton. Our half is all in American Sign Language with no voiced interpretation or captioning since the hearing version went first – I have faith the audience will intrinsically understand what is being signed and I believe it important for ASL to stand on its own.  (We’ve also woven in three forms of ASL to show the passage of time and to track the history of its development-another kind of nod to Oliver’s SEEING VOICES).

The audience leans in, seemingly mesmerized, palpably changed. It is a very full, thought provoking and culturally rich evening. House lights up, the audience is…silent then rapturously applauds. They make their way to the lobby but no further, they are compelled to stay, wanting to talk, wanting to sign, to connect with each other about what they just experienced. House management makes an announcement, lights are flashed then turned off. Everyone is forced out onto the street.

We take over a bar. Loud music plays accompanying our raised hands flying as we drown out the music with the images of our voices.

Much has been and will continue to be written about Dr. Oliver Sacks. He was a REMARKABLE story teller,  a brilliant thinker, a beautiful, eloquent, articulate, humorous, vivacious human being. He touched so many of our lives, making a great difference in our world and helped us to understand a little bit better what it means to be human.  We are all better for there being an Oliver Sacks.

Our hearts are FULL with you Oliver! FULL with gratitude. FULL with love. We shall ALWAYS carry you in our hearts and in our hands.

May you rest in peace.

Much love,
Your AKOA family

Lori Rushton, TerryLene, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Kim Weild, Lewis Merkin, Alexandria Wailes and Marlee Koeningsberg
Lori Rushton, TerryLene, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Kim Weild, Lewis Merkin, Alexandria Wailes and Marlee Koeningsberg

 

For those interested here is a link to his obituary in the NY TIMES

sacks_scourfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a link to his Ted Talk on What hallucination reveals about the mind. Ted Talk: Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks Ted Talk Image

AMAZING GRACE IS COMING TO BROADWAY and OTHER BIG NEWS!

A great deal has happened since last summer and being at The Kennedy Center: Jill Bernard and I founded a new company (we will be having a big launch soon), I’m resuming Associate Director duties on AMAZING GRACE (we open at The Nederlander Theater on Broadway June 25th), I wrote a musical about Dusty Springfield that is opening at Charing Cross Theatre in London on June 3rd, AND I’ll be directing two remarkable new musicals, Obeah Opera by Nicole Brooks which will be premiering up in  Toronto for the Pan Am Games in August  and the other, Indian Joe by Tony Award Nominee Elizabeth A. Davis (Once) at Goodspeed Musicals in October.

So, I’ve been busy keeping my head down, digging in and working which has meant I have had no time to post but I’m here now and I promise to catch you up a bit on things.

Amazing Grace ArtworkLet’s start with  AMAZING GRACE.  I’m returning to Associate Direct this epic musical.  Many people know John Newton’s story after he turned away from the Slave Trade to become a minister, an abolitionist and mentor to William Wilberforce but few know of the events that lead him to write one of the world’s most beloved songs…and this is where our story begins.

Coming of age as Britain sits atop an international empire of slavery, John Newton (played by Tony Award Nominee Josh Young) finds himself torn between following in his father’s footsteps – a slave trader – and embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart, Mary Catlett (played by the incomparable and beautiful Erin Mackey). When a perilously near fatal voyage on the high seas plunges John into his darkest hour, a transformative moment of self-reckoning lifts him up, helping him to see and finally find his way home.

This is a show YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS! Yes, I may be biased but I have to say, when we were in Chicago at the Bank of America Theater, night after night what I experienced as I listened to and watched the audience, only further affirmed my belief in the transformative power of live theater – to provoke, to remember, to unite, to give hope…to illuminate humanity.

I truly hope you will come and see it and when you do, l’d love to hear what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kennedy Center Directing Intensive-DO SOMETHING!

The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center

This Saturday I’ll be traveling down to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to lead a week long directing intensive with my colleague and friend, director Michael Rau.  Ever since meeting at Columbia University we have been in each others’ lives.  When good fortune has us in the same country and city for more than a week, we can usually be found tucked away in some corner, having a beer and ensconced in a heated discussion/debate about the state of director training in the United States.

I always love seeing Michael but I REALLY believe in DOING.  I don’t subscribe to spending too much time sitting around talking and pontificating about directing.  You learn by doing.  This was indoctrinated into me at a high level when I first began training at The School of American Ballet at the age of seven.  I was there for the next ten formative years of my life and without a doubt, it is one of my core values.

The fact is, most working directors spend alot of time helping playwrights develop new work, yet there seems to be a real paucity of opportunities to help young, emerging directors and even directors on faculty at academic institutions understand what the process entails.  The latter being of importance as academic institutions are increasingly becoming an invaluable resource of time and space for playwrights, pairing them with young directors.  It is a process I love.

In the United States, the playwright rules yet playwrights need/want directors.  Outside of graduate school training, the list of developmental resources and funds geared towards directors is, frankly paltry and we certainly do not have any of the systems in place that exist in other countries, such as England or Germany, that fully train assistant and associate directors with an eye towards the health of the field of directing and theater in general.

The majority of opportunities for residencies and workshops in the United States are structured for playwrights. These opportunities are rich and important places for collaboration and new work development, but they are also rooms where directors are often tethered to the phrase, “the director is in service to the playwright”.  For some, they may not even understand what that means or they may have some vague notion or they are shy about offering up the fullness of their ideas thinking that they don’t want to upset the playwright.  I know because once, this was me.

As part of the National New Play Network Conference at The Kennedy Center, the intensive is uniquely positioned to give directors the opportunity to be in the room with eight new plays being developed with eight artistic directors from major theaters across the country.  Yes, it is only a week, but it is a beginning.

The goal of the intensive is to push a group of young (ish) directors to think critically about the role of a director in the new play environment.  This year, there will be 20 participants ranging from current undergraduate and MFA graduate directing students as well as faculty members from esteemed institutions.

In striving to help directors recognize the unique role a director plays in developing new work, the intensive also endeavors to give participants a working understanding of the tools that a director has available not only to be individually in dialogue with the playwright but also in the rehearsal room, and in their approach to planning a production. The week is structured to ensure that there is a balance of activities and we provide avenues for three different aspects of director training; observing, theory, and practical experience.  The day begins at 9am and ends around 10pm.

How did this all come about?  Prompted by an article Will Davis wrote last year for HowlRound on the infrastructure of new play development and the director’s role in it, Gregg Henry  of The Kennedy Center, reached out to Will and charged him to “Do something about it” (ah yes, DO!).  Gregg gave Will and Michael the opportunity to create and lay down the foundation for this program.  I am very honored to be asked to come be a part of it this year and to help further develop it.

We believe it’s time to dream up new modes and methods for developing the craft and artistry of the emerging American director and new definitions for words like “the play” and “the text.” Our vision, of course, includes the playwright driven workshop but also dreams about the director driven workshop and expands beyond that to consider a more holistic view of playmaking and performance that engages a more dynamic collaborative model.

Stay tuned for an update from Michael and me at The Kennedy Center!

Director Michael Rau
Director Michael Rau

 

Director Will Davis
Director Will Davis

George Morrison-Into Memory

Paul Sills, George Morrison and Mike Nichols
Paul Sills, George Morrison and Mike Nichols

Yesterday evening, June 28th, the remarkable George Morrison passed away. I loved him fiercely and he scared the shit out of me. He was one of the best acting teachers I have ever had – he taught me not only about acting but about how to be in the world. When we met I was a naive, hyper sensitive young woman, who wore her heart on her sleeve and he helped me understand how to cultivate and channel that sensitivity, without being overly indulgent, so as to harness it and be productive-to create in a way that would not annihilate me. In every student he had and there must be thousands, he saw a unique individual that he tried to help “…realize their nature perfectly”, the operative word being THEIR.

I will never forget when he came to see my production of Uncle Vanya. I so wanted him to be pleased with my directing, to SEE, HEAR and EXPERIENCE a world that he had a hand in helping to create. His response was more than I had ever dreamt possible and soon after we went to dinner and discussed Chekhov, directing, acting, life and those first two years of NAW. My class, the very first class, was a tough bunch. We were intense, irascible, FUNNY, passionate, open, super intelligent and a little crazy. We went through fire together…and snow…actually naked in the snow but that’s a story for another time.

George, Paul Sills and Mike Nichols were in my life DAILY for two whole years – two very important formative years. Two wholly REMARKABLE years.  They guided, prodded, cajoled, teased, yelled, loved, laughed with us and at us and I hold them close in my heart, in the part of me that is full of love, full of gratitude, full of awe.

George, what a privilege to know you, to be guided by you.

“I am here and you are there…”

All my love-Kim

The First Graduating Class of The New Actors Workshop
The First Graduating Class of The New Actors Workshop
Original Poster courtesy of Jessica Hughes
Original Poster courtesy of Jessica Hughes

UNEXPECTED GIFTS

inspireThis past week I had the good fortune of being able to spend a little time with my dear friend Shira Milikowsky with whom I attended Columbia.  Shira is currently the Artistic Associate at A.R.T. and one of the brightest people I know.  Quick witted with an astonishingly acute ability to “cut through b******t”.  In fact, she is the first person I can remember, when upon seeing me, rather than immediately ask me what I was up to, asked me, “What inspires you?”

At least three times a day I am asked, “What are you working on?” a question which can fill me with excitement, anxiety or even dread and sometimes all three simultaneously. The extent to which I answer depends on who is asking.  I am circumspect, believe in discretion and was raised knowing that integrity matters and is an important measure of a person.  I am also a bit superstitious, as in “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”  So I think for some, when they ask me “What are you working on?”, the answer they receive tends to be less than satisfying and believe me I can see it on their faces.

The nature of what I do as a freelance director means that at any given time I have a number of projects in various stages of development…and that is not some line glibly said.  The truth is, I have many balls in the air and I am working hard to keep them up, alive and in play.  Which could explain the dearth of a dating life with which I live…oh right…I’m a Theatre Nun…no wait that’s not right, I’m a Theatre Goddess…they have MUCH more fun.

Shira’s question couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been feeling a little depleted (I am working on nine separate projects-there you got me to reveal something) and I really wasn’t able to answer her the way I thought I would, in a way that I found satisfying.  After we parted, my lack of a real connection to my answer continued to gnaw at me.  Later, I remembered in one of our classes with Anne at Columbia she talked about the etymology of the word inspire: to infuse with breath or to impart a truth or idea to someone, to inflame.  I thought about how in my own teaching, I try to infuse my students with a sense of wonder at how they see and experience the world, to understand that inspiration is infinite and not to “wait” for it, that we are ALWAYS surrounded by it, we just need to shift how we relate to the world, to our environments, to one another.  Open ourselves up.

As I sat on a bench in the sun watching a poodle, a dachshund and Tibetan terrier gloriously Viewpoint with one another, I realized that as I have grown older inspiration reveals itself in unexpected and quieter ways: the smile of a child, a hello from a passing stranger, caressing my mother’s hand in mine as we drive side by side in silence.  Moment by moment, breath by breath as in life so too as in theatre, inspiration swirls around us, in us, through us.

So, how about we all starting asking one another “What inspires you?”  I bet we’ll start having more engaged conversations that prove to be immensely more satisfying.

Thank you Shira for waking me up, for reminding me that INSPIRATION is everywhere…and thank you for inspiring me too!

Definition of Inspire

 

THE WORK GOES ON

logonytw-logoBeing able to continue to work on a play that I LOVE is exciting, thrilling and a gift.  Once again, I will be working with Noor Theatre on Tuqus al-Isharat wa-l-Tahawwulat (Rituals of Signs and Transformations), this time in a developmental residency with NYTW on the campus of Adelphi University.   We have been given the opportunity to delve deeper into Sa’dallah Wannous’ extraordinary play as translated into English by Robert Myers and Nada Saab.  Robert will be in attendance with us and Sahar Assaf who directed the play at The American University of Beirut will play Mu’mina. We are fortunate to also have in our cast:  Michael Braun, Ramsey Faragallah, Peter Ganim and Rasha Zamamiri (with whom I just worked on The Mecca Tales)

Wannous’s prologue to the play takes as its point of departure the historian Fakhri al-Barudi’s account of an incident in the 1880s in Damascus in which two clerics were involved in a feud that split the city into two factions. One was the Mufti, the chief religious legal authority, also referred to in the play as Sheik Qassim, and the Naqib-Al Ashraf, also referred to as Sir Abdallah, the leader of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
For Wannous, this historical account is—as so many real and mythical tales are for other playwrights—merely a point of departure for creating a complex dramatic universe. In the prologue, Wannous explicitly warns us that the characters in the play should not be seen as types who represent their ranks or social positions. In fact, one prevalent theme in the play is the quest of characters to elude the roles imposed upon them by a traditional society. At the center of the story is Mu’mina, the wife of the Naqib, who, by taking control of her own destiny and embarking on a path of forbidden sensuality, transforms both herself and those around her.
In Rituals of Signs and Transformations, Wannous creates a stunningly original form that utilizes elements of Eastern and Western theatre, literature and culture. Obvious sources for the play include Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, One Thousand and One Nights and Sufism, especially rituals and motifs related to transformation and enlightenment. Earlier productions include Beirut (1996), directed by Nidal al-Ashqar; Cairo (1997); Damascus, Hama and Aleppo (2009); the American University of Cairo (2012); the Comédie Française, Paris (2013), in French, directed by Bassem Al-Sulayman.  It is also the only Arabic play in repertoire at the Comédie Française.

This translation of Tuqus al-Isharat wa-l-Tahawwulat (Rituals of Signs and Transformations) from Arabic to English was commissioned by Silk Road Rising and funded by a grant from the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The English translation premiered in Beirut in December of 2013 at the Babel Theatre, and was produced by the American University in Beirut and Robert Myers and directed by Sahar Assaf. The play is also receiving a staged reading in March 2014 at the Segal Theatre Center at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City directed by Kim Weild. The translation appears in Four Plays From Syria: Sa’dallah Wannous, published by CUNY’s Martin Segal Theatre Center, for which co-translator Robert Myers wrote the introduction.

As Wannous writes in the prologue, the problems the play raises are “current and ever recurrent.”

To order a copy of:  Four Plays From Syria: Sa’dallah Wannous  Press HERE

Wannous-front-cover-only-FINAL-5

CELEBRATING SHAKESPEARE’S 450th BIRTHDAY

ShakespeareA few week’s ago it was Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday.  Historians know he was baptized on April 26, 1564 but they don’t know the exact date of his birth.  Around the world there were celebrations some a month long, a week long or just for the day.  Here in NYC there were numerous events and as it happens I was contacted by Melinda Hall of Willful Pictures asking if I would participate in a SONNET SLAM in Central Park that she was producing.  The event was to take place on Friday April 24th and all 154 of Shakespeare’s Sonnets were to be read/performed, in order, beginning with Sonnet #1.

I replied with an enthusiastic “yes!” (I love Shakespeare and a treasured possession of mine is a 1776 Samuel Johnson annotated The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.  A college graduation gift from my parents that my father allows me to visit.  Did I mention he has kept it as part of his own library all these years?).  I suggested to Melinda that Alexandria Wailes perform as well, in ASL, either with me or a Sonnet of her own choosing.  I knew I was throwing Melinda a bit of a curve ball and though I sensed a little bit of hesitation on her part, she was great and responded with “OK”.

As soon as I contacted Alex and she said “yes!”, we got to work on the translation.  We discussed at length how to do this because those who know of my work combining ASL and spoken English, know that I am actively investigating creative ways to allow the language to stand on its own.  I am clear, I am not an ASL interpreter, I don’t create “Deaf” theatre and I did not want anyone in the audience to think for a moment that I was an interpreter or interpreting Alex’s work.  We decided we would walk out onto the stage together, Alex would sign the intro, then I would speak the intro, the stage would then be hers-she would sign and then she would yield to me and I would voice.

For many, I recognize that what they thought they saw was a beautiful ASL performance and then a woman speaking Sonnet #18.  However  I believe that in how we set it up, we created a subtle shift in how our performances were received, together but separate, honoring each other’s  language and culture and that bore out in the unexpected outpouring of support we received not only immediately after but for in  following weeks.

We discovered that audience members took to social media, tweeting about us, sending photos and video.  Even the British Deputy Consul General Nick Astbury tweeted about us which then led to Central Park picking up on it and send it out over their media!

Sonnet XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

473915439_640 - Version 2

BEING A PILGRIM

On Monday May 19th on the eighth floor in studio four of Manhattan Theatre Club, a beautiful and tremendously talented group of actors assembled to bring Rohina Malik’s play The Mecca Tales alive and it was an honor to be at the helm.

Company photo
The Mecca Tales – Company Photo

Rohina is a soft spoken, incredibly bright, sensitive and tenacious playwright.  Her play inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales seamlessly weaves together the very personal and moving stories of five diverse Muslim women who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca for the Hajj.  Through the course of their pilgrimage, they create a sisterhood allowing each to unburden herself of her grief, shame, secrets and sins.  Poignant, heart breaking and gut wrenching the play is also filled with wonderful humor.   Rohina keeps the stakes raised high as she asks us to look at how we create meaning in our lives and reminds us that right now, this moment, is all that we have, so we best be fully present NOW.

Our cast for the reading included: Dalia Davi, Nambi E. Kelley, Sunita S. Mukhi, Socorro Santiago, Ryan Shams, Rasha Zamamiri with Joseph Hayward reading stage directions and the incomparable Oudist Scott Wilson.

It was a powerful evening.

Nambi
Nambi E. Kelley as Malika

Malika a medical student who has memorized the entire Quran, decides to take the step after meeting Death through a dying patient.

Soccoro and Sunita
Socorro Santiago as Grace & Sunita S. Mukhi as Bina

Grace a convert and the leader of the Hajj travel group, making her 10th  voyage to Mecca.

Bina wife of a doctor – it is the dark, unhappy layers under her seemingly perfect, affluent life that lead her to seek pilgrimage.

Dalia Davi
Dalia Davi as Alma

 

 

Alma seeks redemption and release from her anger, shame and depression for having given birth to a disabled child.

 

Rasha

Maya, three critical hours in her life have led her to Mecca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Rohina and thank you to everyone who came out and packed the house!

Kim and Rohina

The Mecca Tales

I can’t wait to get in the room with formidable Rohina Malik and her fabulous new play!

We will be presenting a reading on Monday May 19th at 7pm at Manhattan Theatre Club

Inspired by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, five Muslim women meet for the first time at the pilgrimage in Mecca known as the Hajj.
The women must choose whether to reveal themselves and go forward, or to guard their stories and stay behind.
Poetic and transporting, The Mecca Tales explores the power of ritual and redemption.

Our stellar cast includes:
 Sakina Jaffrey, Nambi E. Kelley, Maria Peyramaure, Socorro SantiagoRyan Shams and Rasha Zamamiri

The Mecca Tales Invite

EXCITING NEWS!

Here is the principal cast announcement for the new musical,  Amazing Grace, that was published today in Playbill.  I am excited to also announce that I will be Associate Directing! Come check us out in October at Chicago’s Bank of America Theater!
Erin Mackey, Tom Hewitt, Chuck Cooper, Chris Hoch Will Join Josh Young in Premiere of New Musical Amazing Grace

By Andrew Gans
30 Apr 2014

 

Josh Young
Josh Young

Broadway In Chicago has announced additional principal casting for the world premiere of Amazing Grace, the new musical that will begin performances at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre Oct. 9 prior to an official opening Oct. 19.

Directed by Gabriel Barre, choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli, music directed by Joseph Church with sets by Eugene Lee, lighting by Ken Billington and costumes by Toni-Leslie James performances are scheduled through Nov. 2.

Joining the previously announced Tony nominee Josh Young are Erin Mackey, Tony nominee Tom Hewitt, Tony winner Chuck Cooper, Chris Hoch, Stanley Bahorek, Harriett D. Foy and Laiona Michelle.

Amazing Grace features music and lyrics by Christopher Smith and a book by Smith and Arthur Giron. “Based on the awe-inspiring true story behind the world’s most beloved song,” the musical, according to press notes, is described as “a captivating tale of romance, rebellion and redemption… [that] follows one man whose incredible journey ignited a historic wave of change.

John Newton (Josh Young), a willful and musically talented young Englishman, faces a future as uncertain as the turning tide. Coming of age as Britain sits atop an international empire of slavery, he finds himself torn between following in the footsteps of his father – a slave trader – and embracing the more compassionate views of his childhood sweetheart. But when a perilous voyage on the high seas finds John in his darkest hour, a transformative moment of self-reckoning inspires a blazing anthem of hope that will finally guide him home.”

Amazing Grace is produced by Carolyn Rossi Copeland and presented by Broadway In Chicago.

Group tickets for 10 or more are now on sale by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date. For more information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

The Unparalled Magic of City and Stage

Here is Rami G. Khouri’s (The Daily Star)  beautifully written and eloquent review of our special evening at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Center this past Monday March 3, 2014.  It was indeed a remarkable evening and it was an honor to be a part of it, to direct excerpts from Rituals of Signs and Transformations and be reassured and reminded about the transformative power of theater.  As our dear Jacqueline Antaramian who played Mu’mina with fire and dignity said, “…it is like no other medium to illuminate the human soul, and to voice and celebrate human dignity.” 

Many significant things related to the Middle East and its relations with Western societies happened Monday, some more significant than others.

Benjamin Netanyahu squared off with Barack Obama; Egyptian policemen were sentenced to jail for torturing Khalid Saeed to death in 2010; the aging Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika officially filed papers to run for a fourth consecutive term of office; Israel confirmed that the number of settlements doubled last year, reaching a 13-year high; along with a dozen other significant news items.Well, yes, these are all newsworthy developments, but I was able to step back from the news and experience an event in New York City whose consequences must be measured against a very different set of criteria than these political issues. I was fortunate to be able to attend the excerpted readings of the first English translation of late Syrian writer Saadallah Wannous’ play Rituals of Signs and Transformations. Not an earth-shaking event, you might comment, but as I watched with fascination the 45-minute performance, followed by a discussion between people involved in translating, directing and hosting it, I was struck by the tremendous power that cultural displays have to create appreciation and respect among Americans and Arabs, who otherwise spend much time mocking, abusing and killing each other.

The play’s themes largely – but not totally – explain my fascination. Set in 1880s Damascus, it batters the deceitful and scheming political and religious leaderships of society, alongside moving episodes of sexual affirmation and transformation by both straight and gay men and women who are held together by a common thread: the power of liberating oneself from the constraints of oppressive social rules.

Written by a Syrian author in the 1990s, it captures human emotions and hypocrisy, social constraints, and political power relations that are reflected in perhaps every country in the world. But this cultural and creative power that affirms universal human attributes is virtually unknown outside the Arab world.

Beyond the thrill of the play and Noor Theater’s wonderful production, I was equally impressed by how several quality institutions had come together to offer the public this reading and the illuminating discussion that followed. The Martin Segal Theater Center, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, hosted the event, under the able leadership of executive director Frank Hentschker. The English translation of the play and its first production in Beirut a few months ago largely reflected the work of two professors at the American University of Beirut – Robert Myers and Sahara Assad – along with Nada Saab at the Lebanese American University.

The result (amid the ugly news of wars, terrorism, starvation sieges, bombs and widespread political criminality across the Arab world) was a powerful reminder of the deep and textured humanity that defines the Middle East that I know, love and encounter every day. Only art and culture can reflect this reality to other societies.

This play and three others were published Monday in English in the book “Four Plays from Syria: Saadallah Wannous” (edited by Marvin Carlson and Safi Mahfouz, published by the Martin E. Segal Theater Center). They remind us of the importance of both translation and theatrical arts as potentially immense forces in the transmission of culture and human values across continents.

On a freezing Monday evening in midtown Manhattan, I emerged from this experience with heightened respect and appreciation for the phenomenon that underlies all of this – the urban environment, with its grandeur, productivity and endless joys. It is in cities that hypocritical leaders in all spheres of society operate, and in cities where ordinary citizens perform extraordinary deeds as they assert their common humanity, their enticing individualism, and their determination to live in freedom and dignity. Cities also allow great universities to thrive.

Damascus, Beirut and New York combined across time and space to present this captivating display of the best they have to offer to us, and to each other. For that moment in time, the killing, castigating and bombing could wait. On that Monday evening in New York, Americans, Arabs and people from a dozen other lands touched and marveled at their shared humanity. They walked away richer, wiser and warmer. We need more of this, flowing in both directions.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on Twitter@RamiKhou

RITUALS OF SIGNS AND TRANSFORMATIONS

 Monday, March 3 at 6:30pm CUNY’s  Martin E. Segal Center
I have the pleasure of directing excerpts from Syrian playwright Sa’dallah Wannousplay RITUALS OF SIGNS AND TRANSFORMATIONS
 The reading is being produced by the remarkable Noor Theatre and it is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
Our beautiful cast includes
with the amazing
Rituals, by Sa'dallah Wannous; Photo by Alexy Frangieh
Rituals, by Sa’dallah Wannous; Photo by Alexy Frangieh
Set in Damascus in the 1880’s, two rival clerics get mired in a feud that tears the city apart. Political ambition, religious fundamentalism, and sexual hypocrisy fan the theatrical flames in this blistering critique of patriarchy and power in the Arab world.
RITUALS  is a stunning piece of theatrical writing and a powerful prescient play.  Sa’adallah Wannous has been called both the Bertolt Brecht and the Wole Soyinka of the Arab theatre. His plays are to the Arab world what Vaclav Havel’s plays were to the Iron Curtain. He was a central figure in the Arabic theatre of the late twentieth century.  His most important works began to appear in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and were focused on positive social and political change in the region.  The evening celebrates his first collection of works in English translation, Four Plays from Syria, published by the Segal Center (co-edited by Marvin Carlson & Safi Mahfouz, with translations by Marvin Carlson, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, and Nada Saab). The evening will include excerpts of Wannous’ acclaimed play Rituals, the first Arab play in repertory at the Comédie Française. Followed by a discussion with co-editor GC CUNY Professor Marvin CarlsonRituals translators Robert Myers (Professor of English, American University in Beirut) and Nada Saab (Assistant Professor of Literature at Lebanese American University), as well as Beirut-based actress and director Sahar Assaf (Lecturer in Theatre, American University in Beirut). Myers, Saab, and the Chicago-based theatre company Silk Road Rising received a MacArthur grant to translate RITUALS in 2012.
Please join us for what promises to be a stimulating, engaging and thought provoking evening!

Rooney’s Listing in the New York Times

David Rooney of the New York Times wrote this lovely listing in the Theater Listings Section for Nov. 29-Dec. 5th and I thought it was worth re-posting.

‘What We Know’ (previews begin on Wednesday; opens on Dec. 8) The enterprising One Year Lease Theater Company turned heads last year with its production of Mark Ravenhill’s “pool (no water).” That critical hit was staged by the ensemble-based group’s artistic director, Ianthe Demos, who teams here with Natalie Lomonte on the Scottish playwright Pamela Carter’s exploration of life, love and loss in the kitchen. The production employs food preparation and magic to show how one woman fills the gap left after a relationship ends by doing what her former partner did — cooking. Teatro Circulo, 64 East Fourth Street, East Village, (866) 811-4111, oneyearlease.org. (Rooney)

What We Know

BACK ON THE BOARDS!!!

YES! THE RUMORS ARE TRUE!  I am back on the boards again acting, after quite a hiatus focusing on directing and new play development.  I’m working with the terrific One Year Lease Theater Company helmed by Artistic Director Ianthe Demos.  What We Know is a beautiful, haunting and humorous play by Scottish playwright Pamela Carter and this marks its NYC debut.  It is about a moment of irrevocable change in one woman’s (Lucy’s) life.  The GORGEOUS and STUNNING Sarah-Jane Casey is playing Lucy and I tell  you, hers is a performance you DO NOT WANT TO MISS!

Here are photos of the pretty cast:

Top Row: Sarah Jane Casey/Richard Saudek/Nick Flint
Bottom Row: Vanessa Kai/Ethan Slater/Kim Weild

Below is the press release about the show posted on Broadwayworld.com   I hope you will come and see it!

One Year Lease Theater Company presents the US premiere of What We Know by Scottish playwright Pamela Carter for a limited Off-Broadway run from December 4 – 21, 2013 at Teatro Circulo (64 East 4th Street, NYC). Tickets for What We Know are $30 and can be arranged online at www.theatermania.com or by calling 866.811.4111. Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission.

One Year Lease Theater Company latest work employs cooking and magic, making What We Know a feast for the senses.

Richard Saudek (Eager to Lose, pool (no water)) has just joined cast members Sarah-Jane Casey (Skin Tight), Nick Flint (pool (no water)), Vanessa Kai, Ethan Slater and Kim Weild as one of the dinner guests at the extraordinary meal that is served by evening’s end.

What We Know is presented by the ensemble of One Year Lease Theater Company, which brought the critically acclaimed pool (no water) by Mark Ravenhill to NYC audiences in 2012.

One Year Lease Theater Company’s 2012 season was critically acclaimed as “first rate young actors” (Charles Isherwood, The New York Times) “theatrical witchcraft” (Scott Brown, New York Magazine) and “fiery and fantastical” (Eric Sundermann, Village Voice).

Ianthe Demos (Directed pool (no water)) and Natalie Lomonte (Choreographed pool (no water)) direct a production which features music by Estelle Bajou, set design by James Dardenne, lighting design by Mike Riggs, costume design by Sydney Maresca and sound design by Daniel Acampa.

ABOUT PAMELA CARTER: Pamela Carter’s most recent work includes: Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner for untitled Projects/National Theatre of Scotland at Tramway, Glasgow (June 2013). Other plays include: Skåne (directed by Tim Carroll at The Hampstead Theatre Downstairs in October 2011; winner of the New Writing Commission at the Berliner Festspiele Stückemarkt 2012); What We Know (directed by Pamela in a co-production with Traverse Theatre in 2010); and An Argument About Sex – After Marivaux’s La Dispute (2009) and Slope (2006) both directed by Stewart Laing and produced by his company untitled Projects.

ABOUT ONE YEAR LEASE THEATER COMPANY: One Year Lease Theater Company (OYL) premieres bold international works of theater in New York City. OYL advocates physically powerful, ensemble-based theater while creating worlds that are raw, poetic and visceral. OYL is led by Artistic Director Ianthe Demos and Associate Artistic Director Nick Flint. OYL’s ensemble come from international backgrounds including the USA, Greece, Australia, France and New Zealand. OYL’s current ensemble-based international structure was formed in 2008. OYL was founded in 2001 by Ariane Barbanell, Ianthe Demos and Jacqueline Kristel.

OYL runs an annual Apprentice Program in northern Greece for students from across the USA. The program seeks to inspire the individual theater artist and investigate the possibilities of the theatrical experience. The summer of 2013 marked the seventh year of OYL’s Apprentice Program. To date, 47 students have participated from educational institutions all over America: Vassar, Harvard, Princeton, Rice, USC, Columbia, NYU, Reed, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Arizona State, CalArts and Muhlenberg.

The US premiere of What We Know by Pamela Carter will run December 4-21 at Teatro Circulo (64 East 4th Street, NYC) and play according to the following schedule: Tuesday – Saturday at 8:00pm; Saturday 12/7 and 12/21 & Sunday 12/8 and 12/15 at 3:00 pm. Tickets are $30 and can be arranged through www.theatermania.com or by calling 866.811.4111. For more information, visit www.oneyearlease.org.

The Way of the World

Love and passion, greed and manipulation, treachery and deceit…it’s just another day in William Congreve’s
The Way of the World
 Congreve’s timeless masterpiece of Restoration comedy The Way of the World comes to Vassar College’s Martel Theater
November 14, 15, & 16th at 8pm
Designed by Olivia McGiff
designed by Olivia McGiff

I am currently in residence at Vassar College, located in the GORGEOUS Hudson Valley, to direct William Congreve’s Restoration Comedy masterpiece The Way of the World.  It is a glorious play, musical, verbally athletic, requiring tremendous physical, mental and emotional stamina from all the performers.  As we head into tech this week, I am deeply proud of our cast and designers. I am incredibly excited to see our world come together and then to share it with the rest of the world!  If you are up in the Hudson Valley for the fall colors…come check us out on November 14, 15, or 16th.  Tickets are free but reservations are required.  For more information contact the Vassar Box Office at: boxoffice@vassar.edu

In the meantime here is a feature article about the play on the Vassar website that you might find interesting.
And here is a photo of me explaining Congreve’s world to the cast…I think this may be the very first time I have ever looked short in a photo!
20131101-way-of-the-world-BODY
photo by Keith Ferris

RISING WATER TRILOGY at New Jersey Rep

This coming Monday, September 23rd I’ll be at NJ Rep  participating in A SPECIAL EVENT: JOHN BIGUENET’S “RISING WATER TRILOGY”

On Three CONSECUTIVE Mondays, SEPTEMBER 23- OCTOBER 7, 2013 unfold Biguenet’s Modern classic of three plays on New Orleans, Hurricane Katarina and it’s aftermath.

RISING WATER by John Biguenet September 23 Monday at 7 pm.  Directed by Kim Weild.
Hurricane Katrina has just passed through New Orleans but the levies have collapsed and the water’s rising. An elderly couple seek refuge in their attic but there is no way out.
tumblr_m2679h9lkX1r44q44o1_500

SHOTGUN by John Biguenet September 30 Monday at 7 pm. Directed by Gail Winar.
Beau and his teenage son Eugene are trying to rebuild their lives after Katrina. Not only have they lost their home but they are trying to come to terms with a terrible tragedy. They find a place to rent from a black family, but when romance stirs between Beau and Mattie, his new landlady,  deeply ingrained racial prejudices threaten to explode.

 

images

MOLD by John Biguenet October 7 at 7 pm. Directed by Lindy Regan.
Emile and Marie, a young couple, have been battling FEMA, an oppressive and unresponsive beaurocracy, and insurance companies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. They are emotinally exhausted and at the end of their rope, but must make a difficult decision: whether to rebuild in a city that has been decimated by the flood and where the future is uncertain, or leave and start a new life elsewhere.

DON’T MISS THIS EXTRAORDINARY EVENT!

For more information call: 732-229-3166

New Jersey Repertory Company is located at: 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740 press here for directions.

And in case you didn’t know, they specialize in new plays.  In their 16 year history, they have produced over 100 new plays many of which have not only  gone on to multiple productions throughout the United States and internationally but have also been published by Samuel French.  You can learn more about them by going to: www.njrep.org