Bridging the diaspora divide
Jewish and Palestinian playwrights come together in groundbreaking anthology
By Luc Archambault
Since 1997, the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival in Montreal has given us a glimpse at the fascinating world of literature, both home grown and from foreign lands. As a bilingual festival, it has a rich program. One of the most intriguing events at this year’s festival is the panel made up of two playwrights, Stephen Orlov, a Jewish-Canadian born in the US, and Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian-Australian who stems from Gaza. They are united to present their new publication, Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas, which is the first English-language anthology uniting Jewish and Palestinian writers ever. This is a milestone to be celebrated.
… their love of culture and of humanity brought them together to work on this anthology. And the result is mesmerising.
Both come from very different cultural backgrounds, as one would imagine. But their love of culture and of humanity brought them together to work on this anthology. And the result is mesmerising. Seven plays, a multiplicity of voices, of visions, of keen observations on either side of the divide, plays that have had a limited onstage life, because of the almost revolutionary aspect of this particular style of writing: the truth, the real-life construction (and deconstruction) of this ‘divide’, so harmful for most involved and at the same time reassuring for those in power. This is an attack on one of the world’s most heated taboos, at least in the theatre world: how to set the Israel/Palestine divide, from the point of view of live characters, not of ideological nature, but on a human scale. Three plays written by Jewish playwrights, three by Palestinian ones, and one by a collaboration of both. This is truly groundbreaking.
The panel will be held on Saturday, April 29 at 1:30 pm, at the Salle Godin of Hôtel 10. Both Steven Orlov and Samah Sabawi will be on stage to talk about this amazing experience, they will share their personal ones, and will no doubt shed a light on this opening up process difficult to imagine outside the confines of the diasporas of these two peoples. They will both address their sense of estrangement from their homelands (well, more so for madam Sabawi, who admits that Palestine inhabits her every moment, with flashes from her life in Gaza). They will also read scenes from the anthology.
‘Three plays written by Jewish playwrights, three by Palestinian ones, and one by a collaboration of both. This is truly groundbreaking.’
It is a rare event, a ground breaking one. It is not to be missed by anyone interested by the fate of Israel and Palestine, of the future and the past, while not escaping the present situation. It is an opening up, a lifting of the veil that too often blinds us from the real situation in the Holy Land. And it takes the courage and out-of-the-box realities of the diasporas to dare challenge preconceptions. It does not shy away from radicalized political opinions, but turns the stakes and offers another perspective, turning political issues into personal ones, into the everyday life of the common people.
Stephen Orlov is an award-winning dramatist whose plays have been showcased in such major theatre centres as Montreal, Chicago, and London. Stephen also teaches master classes on scriptwriting for theatre and film. He served on the boards of the Playwrights Guild of Canada and Playwrights Canada Press, and he is a member of the inaugural playwrights unit of Infinithéâtre. Boston-born, Stephen resides in Montreal with his wife, cellist Karen Kaderavek.
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Australian-Canadian playwright and poet. Her plays Cries from the Land and Three Wishes had successful runs in Canada, and Tales of a City by the Sea enjoyed a sold-out world premiere run at Melbourne’s La Mama Theatre in Australia, an Arabic premiere at the Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society in Palestine, and was selected for the Victorian Certificate of Education Drama and Theatre Studies Playlist, 2016. Sabawi’s poems feature in anthologies including With Our Eyes Wide Open (West End Press, 2014), Gaza Unsilenced (Just World Books, 2015), and I Remember My Name (Novum publishing, 2016). In 2016, Sabawi received an Australian Postgraduate Award to undertake a PhD by creative project at Victoria University.
Source: Playwrights Canada Press
Feature image: Nato Association of Canada
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Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.