Freedom Theatre to Present THE ISLAND at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center Today

By: Sep. 16, 2013

Following sold-out shows at its community-based theatre and cultural center in Jenin Refugee Camp, Palestine, Freedom Theatre performs the renowned South African anti-apartheid play "The Island" at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center, Devine Studio Theatre today, Sept. 16 and tomorrow, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m., as part of its inaugural U.S. tour. This historic event is presented by the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, (The Lab), an initiative of the Georgetown University Theater and Performance Studies Program and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. The play will be performed in English.

Each performance will be followed by discussions with the artists and leading policy experts, including Khaled Elgindy, Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution on Sept. 16 and Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, University of Maryland, on Sept. 17. Receptions, sponsored by Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Theater & Performance Studies Program, will follow the discussions.

"The Island," written by famed South African playwrights Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona and inspired by a true story, takes place in a prison and revolves around a cellmate who is soon to be released, and another who is serving a life sentence. The two spend their days at mind-numbing physical labor while at night rehearsing for a performance of Sophocles' "Antigone." Is Antigone guilty of defying the laws of the state to bury her brother? Who decides? Under which law? The Freedom Theatre notes that this innovative adaptation reflects the experiences of Palestinian political prisoners, highlighting parallels between South Africa under apartheid and Palestine today.

Tickets are $15 general/$12 faculty, staff, senior, alumni/ and $7 student, and can be ordered at or at 202-687-ARTS (2787) from M-F, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The Davis Performing Arts Center is located on Georgetown University's main campus, at 37th and O Streets, NW in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the performances and post-show discussions, the residency will also include an event co-sponsored with Georgetown University's Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, whose undergraduate programs support the largest Arabic enrollment of any university in the U.S, and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, an academic center at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service which distinguishes itself through the emphasis on the study of the contemporary Arab world. The Tuesday, September 17 discussion will be held at 3 p.m. with the actors and Prof. Elliott Colla and other members of the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies (in Arabic) in the Davis Performing Arts Center's Devine Studio Theatre.

The Freedom Theatre U.S. tour in September - co-sponsored by The Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre and the New York Theatre Workshop as well as theater programs at Georgetown University, Brown University, and the University of Connecticut - will include performances at all four locations and follows a tour last spring in Sweden. The cast features two Jenin actors, Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Ahmad Alrakh, who make the refugee camp their home and are both graduates of the Freedom Theatre's Acting School. The play was performed in Arabic when it opened in Jenin in March, 2013, and will be performed in English on the tour, including the Davis Performing Arts Center shows. The tour will include one Arabic language performance in New York City.

Davis Performing Arts Center artistic director and co-founder of the Laboratory of Global Performance and Politics Derek Goldman says, "Building on recent visits to Georgetown's Davis Center from internationally celebrated artists doing urgent, politically charged work such as Belarus Free Theater, Dah Theater, Ping Chong, Anna Deavere Smith, and Israeli playwright Boaz Gaon, we are honored to be hosting the Freedom Theatre on their first U.S. tour. Our Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics has made Georgetown an international epicenter for the convergence of theater and international politics, and this production of 'The Island,' along with the discussions that will take place through this residency with some of the most insightful experts on the Middle East, are sure to provoke dialogue and empathy, and to foster new understandings."

Ambassador Cynthia P. Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and co-founder of The Lab, adds, "The Freedom Theatre provides the youth of Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank a creative channel for their hopes and aspirations, as well their frustrations and disappointments with daily life. Now, for the first time, American and Georgetown audiences will see a performance by this groundbreaking company as it brings to light current issues in Palestine through a moving narrative based on South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle. Georgetown's Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab), seeks to bridge the gap between politics and performance, something the Freedom Theatre does admirably in 'The Island.'"

The Freedom Theatre was founded in 2006 by Juliano Mer Khamis, Zakaria Zubeidi, and Jonatan Stanczak. The actor son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish Israeli mother, Mer Khamis famously described himself as "100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish." Zakaria Zubeidi, the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, ended his armed opposition to the occupation and committed himself to cultural resistance. The third member of the trio, Stanczak, a Swede, is Managing Director of the Freedom Theatre, whose aim is to provide an opportunity for young people living their entire lives under occupation to create and express themselves freely.

Mer Khamis was shot dead in broad daylight just steps away from the Freedom Theatre building in Jenin on April 4, 2011. No one has been charged with his murder. In the weeks and months following the killing, the Theatre was attacked by the Israeli army and several staff members were detained by Palestinian and Israeli authorities. In recent months, the Theatre has presented several new productions that have been seen by thousands of young adults and children at its building in the refugee camp.

Photo Credit: Mohammed Mouwia


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