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'Break The Wall' Theatre Project to Launch Monday, 6/5

BREAK THE WALL (www.breakthewallproject.org), an open-access hybrid theatre/website theatre project addressing the Israel/Palestine conflict, officially launches on June 5, the 50th anniversary of the start of Israel's Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Cofounders David Zellnik (Yank!, Sharon/Herzl) and Ismail Khalidi (Tennis in Nablus, Sabra Falling) created this non-profit website to showcase an ever-growing roster of plays that challenge injustice and illuminate the central dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These short plays, from diverse perspectives and in an array of theatrical styles, can be downloaded for free and performed anywhere. The first 13 plays are ready to be downloaded and performed, and include works by playwrights such as Naomi Wallace, Kia Corthron, Yussef El Guindi, and Betty Shemiah among others. To celebrate the launch, there will be an evening of food, drink and selected plays at The Lark Theatre, 311 West 43rd Street, 5th Floor.

"Palestinians have been denied freedom and self-determination for too long," says cofounder Ismail Khalidi. The architecture of discrimination and subjugation that surrounds them - from the apartheid wall to checkpoints - should be a relic of past centuries, but instead persists in large part due to U.S. support for occupation and colonization. The walls of censorship in the American theater, in the media and in academia, sustain this status quo. They too must come down. It is our hope that Break The Wall will serve as a resource to educate and mobilize communities through great theater, and in a collective project of cultural resistance to injustice."

David adds: "I've written about so many different subjects but on this issue alone - Israel/Palestine - there is this unwritten yet rigidly enforced code about what is "acceptable," about who gets to speak, and whose voices are heard. Break The Wall aims to open the discourse and foster challenging and beautiful plays that force the discussion into the open. I believe this issue affects us all - most immediately the lives and destinies of millions of stateless Palestinians, but also Israelis perpetuating a disastrous and immoral system...and also Americans, whose tax dollars and UN veto shield Israel from any meaningful pressure. Since both major parties seem unwilling or unable to stop Israeli colonialism, it is up to us citizens to do the difficult work of changing hearts and minds."

Naomi Wallace (One Flea Spare, In the Heart of America) writes:

"Break The Wall breaks the mold of any recent theatrical endeavors, tearing through censorship with a collection of bold and compelling plays that fearlessly tackles the political geographies of the Occupation of Palestine. And best of all, you can produce any of these plays for free! Now that's the true definition of radical theatre."

Critic and scholar Alisa Solomon ("Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof," Co-Editor of "Wrestling with Zion") adds:

"For nearly 40 years, plays that have dared to tell Palestinian stories or challenge standard Zionist narratives have been shut out of major venues and sometimes silenced altogether, from Joe Papp reneging on a plan to present El Hakawati at The Public Theater in the late 1980s to the panicked backing away from the play My Name is Rachel Corrie, at New York Theater Workshop some 10 years ago

(a reaction from which the theater, I'm glad to say, learned and made amends.) Another dispiriting example was the outcry in the press against Caryl Churchill's properly disturbing and very beautiful play, Seven Jewish Children - a work that has inspired Ismail and David not only for its dense elegance and empathy, but also for Churchill's gesture of making it available for download to anyone who wants to put it on. Break The Wall seizes on theater's rare power to ignite radical empathy, to shake us out of complacencies, to kindle our political commitment and creativity. It's not just a good idea. It's a necessary one."

Where: The Lark Theatre 311 West 43th, 5th Floor, Reception 6pm, Performance 7pm, Party 830pm. For reservations email breakthewalltheatre@gmail.com.

Actors include Leila Buck, Amr El-Bayoumi, Lynnette R. Freeman, Dave Gelles, Alex Herrald, Stan Richardson, Leta Renee Alan, Lynn Marie Rosenberg, Eden Zane, and Constance Zaytoun and Directors Pirronne Yousefzadeh and Abigail Zealey Bess.

Writers include Laura Maria Censabella, Kia Corthon, Yussef El Guindi, Noelle Ghoussaini, Ismail Khalidi, Tegan McLeod, Stan Richardson, Gabriel Schivone, Betty Shemiah, Naomi Wallace, and David Zellnik.

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