US Premiere of SCENES FROM 71* YEARS Portrays Palestinians' Daily Realities
Golden Thread Productions, the first American theatre company devoted to plays from or about the Middle East, stages the U.S. premiere of Scenes From 71* Years, a James Tait Black Award-nominated play by Hannah Khalil documenting Palestinian life since 1948. Based on interviews with friends and family who have lived in the occupied territories, Khalil's groundbreaking work renders a 71-year history of Palestinian lives with disarming humor and resonant humanity. Highly theatrical vignettes of surprisingly familiar stories offer audiences of all backgrounds and vantage points a rarely-glimpsed window into the realities of life under occupation a perspective sorely lacking on American stages.
The U.S. premiere of Scenes From 71* Years is directed by University of Oregon professor Malek Najjar, who returns to Golden Thread after directing When Farah Cries in New Threads 2017. A leading scholar of Arab American theatre, Najjar edited three play anthologies and co-produced Semitic Commonwealth, a staged reading series at Silk Road Rising that featured Scenes and five other plays by Palestinian and Israeli playwrights. Scenes runs April 5 May 5, 2019 at Potrero Stage (1695 18th Street, San Francisco) and performs Thursdays Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. (No performance on Thursday, April 11.) Opening night is Monday, April 8 at 8pm. For tickets ($15 38) and more information, please visit goldenthread.org.
Scenes From 71* Years explores vital themes of identity, homeland, and human rights themes that may intimidate the average American theatre producer, but are at the heart of Golden Thread's mission. One wonders why Palestinian narratives are so politicized in the United States. So many productions and art exhibits have been cancelled. What is so threatening about the lives of Palestinians? About their music, laughter, and language? founding Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian asks, This is a play that simply says, 'we are here, still, despite everything.' To me, this is storytelling at its best.
"The play is both a reflection and a remembrance, says director Malek Najjar, The reflection is that of a Palestine being slowly and meticulously removed from the map by settlements, walls, and segregated highways. The remembrance is of the Palestine that still remains the rich land that is filled with olive trees, with old stone villages, with traditional ways of life."
Through vignettes resonant with warmth and a sense of mischievous humor, Scenes paints a deeply personal portrait of Palestine since the establishment of the State of Israel 71 years ago, reflecting on recent generations' struggles under occupation and asking how we might move forward. The Daily Telegraph has said about Scenes, This new work confirms Hannah Khalil as a dramatist of compelling potential. Exeunt called Scenes, Smart and economical, simultaneously resonant with warmth and humanity, and shot through with exquisitely dark comedy. These scenes combine into a deft, kaleidoscopic portrait of ongoing struggle, acceptance, and simple survival.
Award-winning playwright Hannah Khalil is a Golden Thread Resident Artist, first introduced to Bay Area audiences at ReOrient 2015 with the short play, Bitterenders. Scenes had its world premiere to critical and audience acclaim at the Arcola Theatre in April 2016. Golden Thread's U.S. premiere marks Scenes' second production. Khalil's first short play, Ring, was selected for the Soho Theatre's Westminster Prize. The Scar Test, a play about women in detention in the United Kingdom, was commissioned by Untold Arts and performed on tour and at Soho Theatre London in July 2017. Khalil is currently under commission by Shakespeare's Globe. Her forthcoming work, A Museum in Baghdad, will premiere at the Royal Shakespeare Company in October 2019.
Generations of Americans have come to understand the Palestinian experience through prevailing stereotypes. With the U.S. premiere of Scenes From 71* Years, Golden Thread offers long overdue and rare access to Palestinian narratives, enriching American theatre canon. The cast of nine includes leading Palestinian, Arab, and Middle Eastern actors in the Bay Area. The design features a Brechtian aesthetic and imagery inspired by the ancient olive trees of Palestine, an unwavering symbol of Palestinian life and resiliency.
The Scenes From 71* Years cast features Marisa Darabi, Afif Houssain, Nida Khalil, Dean Koya, Kal'el Lopez, Rasha Mohamed, Lawrence Radecker*+, Adam El-Sharkawi*, and Ayla Yarkut. The creative team includes Wesley Apfel*+ (stage manager), James Ard+ (sound designer), Cassie Barnes+ (lighting designer), Erin Gilley (projection designer), Maya Herbsman (intimacy consultant), Brooke Jennings (costume designer), Carla Pantoja (fight choreographer), Grisel Torres+ (props master & production manager), and Mikiko Uesugi*+ (scenic designer). *Member Actors Equity Association/United Scenic Artists; +Golden Thread Resident Artist.
Golden Thread thanks National Endowment for the Arts, Sam Mazza Foundation, Zellerbach Foundation, and Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation for their support. Golden Thread is a resident company of Potrero Stage, operated by PlayGround. This production is made possible in part through the Potrero Stage Presenting Program.