Palestinian Freedom Theatre's THE SIEGE Makes U.S. Premiere Tonight

Palestinian Freedom Theatre's THE SIEGE Makes U.S. Premiere Tonight

NYU Skirball will present the North American premiere of the Palestinian company The Freedom Theatre's The Siege, running for 10 performances, tonight, October 12, through October 22, 2017.

The Siege is based the 2002 occupation of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where more than 200 Palestinian fighters, civilians and Christian clergy sought sanctuary during an Israeli military action. The play is created and directed by Nabil Al-­Raee and Zoe Lafferty, and will be performed in Arabic with English subtitles.

The Freedom Theatre, based in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, is dedicated to using culture and art as a catalyst for social change. Through workshops, classes and professional theater productions, The Freedom Theater helps Palestinian adults, youth and women develop tools to deal with the hardships of daily life under occupation.

The North American premiere tour is produced by ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann.

The Siege is drawn from the accounts of a group of men who, at the height of the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising), took refuge in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, one of the world's holiest sites. The production is built from interviews with these fighters and others who were trapped in the church as the Israeli army closed in with helicopters, tanks and snipers, and provides unique insights into the Palestinian armed resistance and struggle for equal rights.

The siege lasted for 39 days, trapping over 200 Palestinian militants and local civilians, priests and nuns inside the church, with extremely limited food, water and electricity. Outside the church Israeli snipers remained on alert, paralyzing the center of Bethlehem and keeping 70,000 people under strict curfew.

The complicated negotiations to end the conflict involved not only Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, but representatives from the United States, the Vatican, the United Nations and the governments of Italy and Cyprus. Eight Palestinians were killed and 40 injured by Israeli snipers. After 39 days, a deal between the fighters and Israel was reached; the fighters would surrender and accept permanent exile.

Based in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, The Freedom Theatre rose out of the resistance to Israeli occupation, and has been an artistic hub of cultural resistance since its founding in 2006. Its productions often reflect, comment upon and challenge the realities of contemporary Palestinian society, while exploring various forms of artistic expressions. Past productions include adaptations of Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland, Men in the Sun, Waiting for Godot and The Caretaker, as well as original plays. The company made its U.S. debut in 2013 with an adaptation of Athol Fugard's The Island. The theater has produced 24 original plays and adaptations, played to audiences of more than 100,000 children and adults, and toured 15 countries with plays, workshops and presentations.

The Freedom Theatre was founded by Juliano Mer-Khamis, an Israeli citizen who served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army. The son of an Israeli Jew and Arab Christian, Juliano considered himself 100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish. His mother was Arna Mer Khamis, a Jewish activist who devoted her life to campaigning for freedom and human rights. Arna's work is documented in the internationally awarded film Arna's Children. After his mother's death, Juliano continued her legacy, co-founding The Freedom Theatre in 2006. He was its General Director until 2011, when he was assassinated outside the theater, possibly by an Islamic extremist unhappy with the theater's progressive attitudes towards women and girls. At the time of his murder, he was mounting a production of Spring Awakening, the story of young people coming of age in a repressive society. Visit thefreedomtheatre.org for more.

NYU Skirball, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, is one of New York City's major presenters of international work, and has been the premier venue for cultural and performing arts events in lower Manhattan since 2003. The 860-seat state-of-the art theater, led by Director Jay Wegman, provides a home for internationally renowned artists, innovators and thinkers. NYU Skirball hosts over 300 events annually, from re-inventions of the classics to cutting-edge premieres, in genres ranging from dance, theater and performance art to comedy, music and film.

NYU Skirball's unique place as a vibrant cultural center within New York University enables it to draw on the University's intellectual riches and resources to enhance its programming with dialogues, public forums and conversations with artists, philosophers, scientists, Nobel Laureates and journalists.

Jay Wegman is responsible for the direction and leadership of the Center's artistic programming. He previously served as director of the Abrons Art Center at Henry Street Settlement from 2006-2016, where he curated a balance of local, international, emerging and established multi-disciplinary artists. During his tenure, Abrons was awarded a 2014 OBIE Award for Innovative Excellence and a 2015 Bessie Award for Best Production. He also served as Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine for over a decade and was a Fellow at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. from 2004-2005. Jay is a graduate of Yale University.

The Siege will play 10 performances, October 12 - 22 as follows: Tuesday - Saturdays at 7:30 pm; and Sunday matinees at 3 pm. Tickets start at $65 and may be purchased online at www.nyuskirball.org, by phone at 212.998.4941, or in person at the NYU Skirball Box Office: Tuesday-Saturday, 12:00-6:00 P.M. NYU Skirball is located at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square, New York, New York 10012.

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