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Iraq: Speaking of War Premieres March 19 at CUNY's Grad Center

A coalition of award-winning artists in New York City announces today that the world premiere reading of "Iraq: Speaking of War", the documentary-style theater piece culled from first-hand stories of the war in Iraq and featuring Kathleen Chalfant, George Barteneiff, Najla Said, Judith Malina and other acclaimed actors, will take place Saturday, March 19th at 8 PM at the CUNY-Graduate Center's Proshanzky Auditorium, at 5th Avenue and 34th Street. Tickets for this performance are $10.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-817-8215.

"Iraq: Speaking of War" tells the real-life story of the war through the words of the people who have lived it – from the mothers of American soldiers who've died in the crossfire, to mothers in Iraq whose husbands and children have perished in the US bombings.

"Some stories were taken from articles found in American newspapers, but most of the stories have never before been heard or read by Americans," says Karen Malpede, the Obie-Award-winning playwright who compiled and edited the text following a series of performances outside St. Mark's Church in August 2004. "There's a story of a soldier who killed himself after returning from the war, another about a soldier who threw down his gun after he shot an innocent woman, and even a commander's pep talk to his troops. These stories rarely make it on the evening news."

And even when they do, Malpede points out, the American public usually hears only a fraction of the story. Case in point, the siege on Fallujah, a particularly bloody battle that ended with over 200,000 civilian refugees, hundreds of civilian and dozens of American casualties. "Speaking of War" takes a worm's eye view of these events, with narratives from an Iraqi BBC journalist, doctors, parents, and a Red Crescent Relief worker who saw firsthand the extent of the devastation. Events in the Palestine Hotel and the infamous Abu Graib prison are also explored in the piece.

Malpede is no stranger to dramatizing difficult events of the past; her stage adaptation with George Bartenieff of Victor Klemperer's Holocaust diary "I Will Bear Witness" received two Obie Awards in 2001.

Many artistic collaborators have come together to stage this event. For the March 19th premiere, a ten-minute composition for harp and voices, "Litany", has been created by Serbian composer, Milos Raickovich; harpist Nina Kellman will accompany; percussionist Gilberto Alvarez, who specializes in Afro-Cuban drumming and Johnny Faraj, a Palestinian musician will also perform original music. Amneh Taye, a Palestinian-American who was in Iraq with a UN aid team during the initial invasion, provided first-hand accounts. A chorus of New York actors and vocalists will be co-directed by Alicia House of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and Dalia Biasouney of CUNY. A photo-montage of Iraqi civilians and mosques by Magnum photographer Ilkka Uimonen, whose recent photo book, "Cycles," illustrates the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, will close the performance. Linda Hoaglund produces the special presentation.

Please call 212-817-8215 to purchase tickets For more information about "Iraq: Speaking of War" please visit www.IraqNamingtheDead.org.


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