Mosaic Announces Full 2017 VOICES FROM A CHANGING MIDDLE EAST Festival Lineup
Mosaic Theater Company of DC presents the culmination of its expansive and hugely successful second season with the 2017 Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival. This year's festival is of particular resonance in this 50th year since the Six Day War and the start of The Occupation, and focuses on two taut dramas about the lives, circumstances, and humanity of Palestinians in Israel and Gaza.
The festival launches with the late Gilad Evron's moving allegory, ULYSSES ON BOTTLES (May 18-June 11, 2017), about an Israeli-Palestinian ex-schoolteacher imprisoned in Israel for attempting to smuggle literature into Gaza on a raft of plastic bottles. Overlapping by a week is the second show in the festival, and the last of the 2016-17 season-THE RETURN (June 7-July 2, 2017), by Hanna Eady and Edward Mast, an unsettling mystery between two former lovers who reunite to untangle the trauma and thwarted intimacy of their interconnected history. This year's Festival is rounded out by two staged readings; the first is the capstone to Mosaic's ticketed workshop series-a two-night workshop presentation of OH, GOD (June 26 & 27, 2017), the sardonic comedy by award-winning Israeli playwright Anat Gov, featuring Rick Foucheux and Holly Twyford (both FOUR-TIME Helen Hayes Award winners). The second reading is a one-night presentation of SEEING DOUBLE: A MIDDLE EASTERN COMEDY OF ERROR, originally written in 1989 and recently updated, which will be a free but ticketed event at the neighboring Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Washington DC).
"If you look around DC this month and next, you won't find a whole lot of attention being paid to a most important, yet inauspicious milestone," shares Founding Artistic Director Ari Roth. 50 years of Occupation has meant a distorted existence for Palestinians and the Israelis who've been charged with preserving it. The impact on relationships, on young people on both sides of the divide has been incalculable and corrosive. Our Festival dramatists have been doing the moral and behavioral calculating, assessing the intangible costs to the spirit and imagination of those living on the fault lines of this enduring conflict. And how this conflict 6000 miles away impacts us in the States; well, Mosaic's a living testament that dramas happening around the world implicate and resonate with us all. These are some of the leanest, most elegantly written plays we've ever presented in the Voices Festival, embracing world literature in Ulysses, and a noir-ish, cinematic intensity in The Return, to create riveting, intimate theater chronicling the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians on stage. You're not going to find a lot of that in this country right now, but I can't think of anything more vital, more necessary, than long-divided people taking politics-and the future of their interconnected relationships-into their own hands."
The Festival was conceived in 2000 by Roth during his 18-year tenure at Theater J and was inaugurated with David Hare's Via Dolorosa. The Festival quickly became a critical and commercial success, introducing DC audiences to such innovative and challenging works as David Hare's Via Dolorosa (which in 2000, inaugurated the festival); Rachel Havrelock's Charles McArthur Award-nominated From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A BeatBox Journey featuring Yuri Lane (2007), Motti Lerner's Pangs of the Messiah (2007), Hillel Mitelpunkt's The Accident (2009), Hadar Galron's Mikveh (2010, under the Festival banner, "Voice of the Woman"), Boaz Gaon's adaptations Return to Haifa (2011, performed in Arabic and Hebrew by the Cameri Theatre) and Boged (Traitor): An Enemy of the People (2013) and Motti Lerner's The Admission (2014, performed both at Theater J and Studio Theatre, presented by Busboys and Poets) and many others. In addition to these and a host of panel discussions featuring a wide array of experts and stakeholders, the Festival gave birth to The Peace Café interfaith discussion forum, a joint venture between Roth, Iraqi-American restaurateur Andy Shallal, and journalist Mimi Conway conceived during the run of Via Dolorosa (both Shallal and Conway are Mosaic Theater Company board members, while the original Voices production of Via Dolorosa continues to be performed around the country).
ABOUT ULYSSES ON BOTTLES
Mosaic's Managing Director & Producer Serge Seiden directs Ulysses on Bottles. Seiden most recently directed the smash-hit staging of Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm's Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies, which will return for a remount in Mosaic's 2017-18 season. The cast of Ulysses on Bottles is an all-star lineup helmed by Matthew Boston (who last season played Shylock in The Folger Theatre's production of Aaron Posner's District Merchants) playing Izakov, an attorney assigned to defend the title character of Ulysses, portrayed by Michael Kevin Darnell (When Father Comes Home From The Wars...), an anonymous schoolteacher locked in an Israeli prison for a fanciful attempt to smuggle Russian literature to the children of Gaza. He is joined by Helen Hayes Award winner (and 21-time nominee!) Sarah Marshall, playing the mysterious Seinfeld, an allegorical expression of the Israeli surveillance state. The ensemble is rounded out by Elizabeth Pierotti (The Apple Family Plays) as Eden, Izakov's wife, and Chris Genebach as Horesh, Izakov's competitive law partner, returning to Mosaic right after his acclaimed performance as Eugene de Kock in the recent A Human Being Died That Night.
"The most important, and probably obvious, realization from my trip to Israel last October with Ari is that there is nothing really other about Israel," shares Seiden. "We are all linked in a kind of blood knot; our own kind of unhappy national family with our own kind of racisms at the ideological core. The play is about turning a blind eye toward suffering. Turning away from truth. Holding onto power and privilege. Both personally and nationally. Something we, as Americans, can easily identify with... How long, the play seems to ask, can a whole nation maintain its blindness to its most evil actions? And what does it take for an individual to start to see? And what happens to those who do see? And so the play is also about an awakening...the little flame of empathy that can be dormant-an ember-that suddenly bursts forth to bring hope and possibly change."
Ulysses on Bottles received the 2012 Israel Theater Prize for Best Original Play. Israeli Stage produced the North American premiere in 2015 at ArtsEmerson, under the direction of Guy Ben-Aharon.
ABOUT THE RETURN
The Return is a U.S. premiere, co-written by Palestinian-American playwright and performer Hanna Eady (who performed in Motti Lerner's The Admission, both in DC and Israel), and Seattle-based playwright Edward Mast. The show, staged by director John Vreeke, is a gripping mystery set in an auto repair shop in the beachside Israeli town, Herzliya. Ahmad Kamal plays Him, and Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan plays Her-two mysterious individuals, reuniting for the first time in years. In time their names are revealed, as is their entangled romantic past, and the reason why deception and betrayal wound up leading to imprisonment and a subsequent identity makeover. Now the two attempts to reckon with their mistake and see whether a future friendship is even possible.
"Stories don't become global because they're generic," says The Return director John Vreeke. "The global happens because of the specific. And so the question for us: Is specificity of geography a necessary asset or hindrance in making this universal love and betrayal story relevant to us as Americans? We have the opportunity here to turn this back on our DC audience: How do we create a dynamic through the setting, and the experience of the performance space in making the audience implicated, uncomfortable, perhaps even forcing them to take sides?"
Middle East Festival Discussion Panels announced:
"50 Years Later: Israeli/Palestinian Reckonings"
The Reva and David Logan Community Engagement Initiative continues with a new discussion series curated for the 2017 Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival, titled "50 Years Later: Israeli/Palestinian Reckonings." The series includes discussions with members of the creative team and casts, as well as community and faith leaders, affiliated artists, and members of the audience.
Confirmed participants and discussants include Lara Friedman (President, Foundation for Middle East Peace), Ghaith al-Omari (Senior Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy), Ned Lazarus (Professor, George Washington University), Dr. Samer Al-Saber (Professor, Florida State University), Jamal Asfour (Palestinian Artist), Pam Bailey (Founder and International Director, We Are Not Numbers), Hanna Eady (Playwright, The Return), Edward Mast (Playwright, The Return), Andrea Barron (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International), Terrell Branham (Poet Ambassador), Paul Costello (President, New Story Leadership), Gibson Cima (Professor, Georgetown University), Nada El-Eryan (Grants Officer, UNRWA USA National Committee), Nizar Farsakh (former Palestinian negotiator), John Feffer (Director, Epicenter), Dr. Adina Friedman (Peace and Conflict Resolution Scholar), Shelley Fudge (Jewish Voice for Peace), Wendy Glenn (Program Manager, Barry Farm Recreation Center), Dr. Maha Hilal (Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies), Jodi Kanter (GWU Professor and Production Dramaturg), Jonathan Kuttab (Human Rights Lawyer), Samer Said (Palestinian Student), Assaf Krupnik (Israeli 'Seeds of Peace' Alumnus), Ed Lazere (President, Temple Micah and Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute), Libby Lenkinski (VP for Public Engagement), Mbachur Mbenga (Outreach Coordinator, Free Minds Book Club), Jamal Najjab (Palestinian American activist), Bshara Nassar (Founding Director, Museum of the Palestinian People), Terence Nicholson (Associate Creative Director, Anacostia Arts Center), Miko Peled (Author, The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine), Aaron Shneyer (Founder, Heartbeat), Obada Shtayeh (Regional Director, OneVoice Movement), Elaine Reuben (International Council Member, New Israel Fund), Jessica Rosenblum (VP for Communications, J Street), Ari Roth (Founding Artistic Director, Mosaic Theater Company of DC), Samer Said (Palestinian Student), Michael Sfard (Human Rights Lawyer Author and Political Activist), Rabbi David Shneyer (Spiritual Leader, Am Kolel and Kehila Chadasha), Virginia Spatz (East of the River/We Act Radio Journalist), Stephen Stern (Mosaic Board Member), Michele Tingling-Clemmons (President, Central Northeast Civic Association) with opening night musical performances by Heartbeat: The Israeli-Palestinian Youth Music Project. For updated information on the discussion series schedule, panelist bios, and ASL/open caption information for discussions, visit mosaictheater.org/voices-festival.
On Tuesday, June 6 at 7PM, Mosaic Theater Company presents Seeing Double: A Middle Eastern Comedy of Error at Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE). Originally written in 1989 for the San Francisco Mime Troupe by Jody Hirsh, Joan Holden, Sinai Peter, Henri Picciotto, and Emily Shihadeh, the play was recently updated by the original authors as well as co-author of The Return, Hanna Eady. This event is free but ticketed. To RSVP, visit hillcenterdc.org/event/staged-reading-seeing-double/.
Gilad Evron (Playwright, Ulysses on Bottles) is an Israeli playwright, screenwriter, and author. During 1976-1979 Evron studied Visual Arts at Betzalel Academy in Jerusalem. Evron's first script, Bread, was produced by the Israeli television in 1985 and won the "Prix Italia" international award (1986) for best fictional television drama in Europe. Evron continued to write for Israeli television and cinema, but turned also to the theater. His first play, Rain, was brought to the stage in 1988. Since then, Evron's plays have been presented at Israel's major theaters and theater festivals, winning recognition and several awards; most notably for Jehu (1993) and Ulysses on Bottles (2012) as the "Best Original Play of the Year", and The Prime Minister's Award to Hebrew Author (in 1997). Between the years 1996-1998, Evron was the playwright in residence of Israel's National Theater, Habima. Evron's plays have been staged in France (2009) Germany (2012) and Austria (2014). In 2003 Evron published his first book, Mareh Makon (Other Places), a collection of short stories. "The Falcon," one of the stories in the book, was published in the British literary magazine Granata (2005). In 2009 Six Plays, a collection of Evron's plays, was published by Tel-Aviv University.
Serge Seiden (Director, Ulysses on Bottles) is Mosaic Theater's Managing Director and Producer. Serge manages Mosaic's nearly $2M budget, the administrative staff, and oversees the production of the Company's 8 play season. He is proud to serve on Mosaic's Board of Directors. An Artist-Manager, Seiden recently directed Mosaic's acclaimed production of Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies. Last season he directed When January Feels Like Summer. Seiden received a 2017 Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Director, Resident Play for his production of Jumanji at Adventure Theater - MTC. For Studio Theatre (where he worked for 25 years) Seiden directed the hit production of Bad Jews (which broke Studio box office records) and returned by popular demand in the 2015-2016 season. Bad Jews was nominated for 4 2015 Helen Hayes Awards including Outstanding Director. In 2013 Serge received the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director/Resident Musical for Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris... at MetroStage. Seiden directed Everett Quinton's A Tale of Two Cities for Synetic Theater and Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! for Olney Theatre Center. From 1990 to 2015 Seiden held many positions at Studio Theatre including Production Stage Manager, Literary Manager, and Producing Director. Other Studio Theatre credits include all four plays in the Apple Family Cycle; The Motherfucker with the Hat, The Golden Dragon, Superior Donuts, In the Red and Brown Water, Grey Gardens, My Children! My Africa!, Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins (which received three Helen Hayes Awards and five Helen Hayes Award nominations including Outstanding Director and Outstanding Resident Play); A New Brain (which received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Resident Musical); and Old Wicked Songs (which received seven Helen Hayes nominations, including Outstanding Director.) Additional Studio credits include The Long Christmas Ride Home, Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, Black Milk, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The York Realist, Two Sisters and a Piano, Blue Heart, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and A Class Act. For Studio 2ndStage, Mr. Seiden directed Sixty Miles to Silver Lake, All That I Will Ever Be, This Is Our Youth, Ecstasy, Mad Forest, Hot Fudge, Sincerity Forever, and Durang/Durang. His productions at Adventure Theatre MTC- A Little House Christmas, and Charlotte's Web were nominated for Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Production, Theater for Young Audiences. Seiden has directed several readings for the annual Zeitgeist Festival at the Goethe-Institut and Moth for the National New Play Network. For 22 years Seiden has been a member of the faculty of the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory, where he trained as an actor and director. Serge is a graduate of Swarthmore College.
Hanna Eady (Co-playwright, The Return) is a Palestinian-American actor and playwright best known for co-writing Suhmata, a play about the destruction of the Palestinian Arab village of Suhmata, near Acre in what is now northern Israel. Eady was born in 1956 in the village of Buqu'ya in the Upper Galilee region of Israel, and took an interest in theater from an early age. He earned a B.A. in social work from the University of Haifa, and then worked as the artistic director of a theater. He then moved to the United States to study theater, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Fine Arts in drama and directing from the University of Washington in Seattle. After obtaining his third academic degree, Eady opened the New Image Theater Company, where he wrote and produced numerous plays, including Seeing Double (1991) and Abraham's Land (1992). The play Suhmata, which he co-wrote with Edward Mast, depicts the 1948 destruction of a Palestinian village of that name during the 1948 Palestine war. The play debuted in Seattle in 1996 and has since been performed in various theaters in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.
Edward Mast (Co-playwright, The Return) was born in California and now lives in Seattle with his wife and daughter. His plays and solo performances have been seen in New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, Honolulu, Oxford, Tashkent, Jerusalem, and other cities. Recent productions include Seneca with Samizdat Theatre; Shearwater River with Chain Link; No Problem, a puppet show with Cardboard Theatre; S2 at Annex Theatre; Tent City Planet, Antigone's Nation, Sleepwalking Apocalypse, and Shadows of Exile with the Theatre Squad; The Million Bells of Ocean at Moving Arts and American Theatre Company; and adaptations of Prometheus Bound/Unbound at the Bailiwick Theatre, The War Prayer at The Coterie, Uncle Vampire at Write/Act, the Chinese classic Peach Blossom Fan at the CalArts Center For New Theatre, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at the Resident Theatre Company. His play Sahmatah: Memory of Stones (co-written with Hanna Eady), has been touring Israel since 1998. His plays Jungalbook, Dinosaurus, and Wolf Child: The Correction of Joseph are published by Anchorage Press, and his plays The Hobbit and Trickster Mountain or the Tengu of Kami by Dramatic Publishing Company. He has received commissions, awards, grants and fellowships from Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, Seattle Childrens Theatre, American Alliance for Theatre and Education, CalArts Center for New Theatre, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
John Vreeke (Director, The Return) has been directing in the Washington DC area since 2002. He has directed at Olney Theater Company (Bakersfield Mist and Fiddler on the Roof), Metro Stage (The Letters, Underneath the Lintel and The Thousandth Night, among others), Round House Theater Company (Uncle Vanya and The Lyons), Theater J (The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide..., Race, and The Tattooed Girl, among others), Forum Theater (The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Drunk Enough to Say I Love You), Everyman Theater (Opus and Red Herring), Theater Alliance (The Monument), Washington Shakespeare Company (Death and The Kings Horseman, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Tiny Alice) as well as Woolly Mammoth (Guards at the Taj, Cherokee, and Detroit, among others) where he currently works as a company member. Before relocating to the DC area John received his MFA in Theatre Directing from The University of Utah and worked in regional theaters across Texas, Washington State and California. He has also directed and taught at The University of Virginia, Cornish College of the Arts, the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, University of Maryland, Northwest Actors Studio, Seattle Central Community College, Houston Community College, and University of Michigan-Flint.
The creative team for Ulysses on Bottles includes set and costumes designer Frida Shoham, lighting designer Brittany Shemuga, sound designer Roc Lee, properties designer Michelle Elwyn, dramaturg Jodi Kanter, fight choreographer Robb Hunter, technical director William M. Woodard, stage manager Allie Roy.
For additional production information visit mosaictheater.org/ulysses.
The creative team for The Return includes set and lighting designer Colin Bills, sound designer Sarah O'Halloran, costume designer Jeanette Christensen, properties designer Michelle Elwyn, technical director William M. Woodard, stage manager Bekah Wachenfeld.
For additional production information visit mosaictheater.org/the-return.
Production Information (Ulysses on Bottles):
Monday, May 22 at 7:30PM
Ulysses on Bottles
By Gilad Evron | Translated by Evan Fallenberg | Directed by Serge Seiden
Produced by Mosaic Theater Company of DC at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Lang Theatre
May 18-June 11, 2017
ABOUT: The 2017 Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival marks 50 years of The Occupation, and launches with Israeli playwright Gilad Evron's poetic and poignant play, Ulysses on Bottles. The story recounts the fallout when an Israeli-Arab ex-teacher, nicknamed Ulysses, attempts to sail into Gaza on a raft made of plastic bottles, bearing with him a cargo of Dostoyevksy's Crime and Punishment. He is paired with a successful Israeli-Jewish attorney who takes his case pro bono, as two worlds collide over Gaza.
The profound implication of privilege and access in one of the hotbeds of the world intersect with surprising sympathy and humor in this award-winning and unforgettable story.
Ulysses: Michael Kevin Darnell
Horesh: Chris Genebach
Eden: Elizabeth Pierotti
Seinfeld: Sarah Marshall
Izakov: Matthew Boston
Playwright: Gilad Evron
Translator: Evan Fallenberg
Director: Serge Seiden
Set and Costumes Designer: Frida Shoham
Lighting Designer: Brittany Shemuga
Sound Designer: Roc Lee
Properties Designer: Michelle Elwyn
Dramaturg: Jodi Kanter
Fight Choreographer: Robb Hunter
Technical Director: William M. Woodard
Production Stage Manager: Allie Roy
Production Information (The Return):
Monday, June 12 at 7:30PM
By Hanna Eady & Edward Mast| Directed by John Vreeke
Produced by Mosaic Theater Company of DC at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sprenger Theatre
June 7-July 2, 2017
ABOUT: A gripping mystery set in a run-down automobile repair shop in old Herzliya, this American premiere by Palestinian playwright Hanna Eady and Seattle-based writer with Edward Mast elegantly dramatizes the smoldering tension between a Palestinian mechanic and an attracted, conflicted Israeli Jewish woman from his past. Four Pinteresque scenes deftly unfold a story of love, betrayal, guilt, and challenge.
Him: Ahmad Kamal
Playwright: Hanna Eady & Edward Mast
Director: John Vreeke
Set and Lighting Designer: Colin Bills
Costume Designer: Jeanette Christensen
Sound Designer: Sarah O'Halloran
Properties Designer: Michelle Elwyn
Technical Director: William M. Woodard
Production Stage Manager: Bekah Wachenfeld
Plan Your Visit:
TICKETS: Tickets are $40-$60, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as student discounts, neighborhood nights, military and first responder discounts, and others, visit mosaictheater.org/tickets. Tickets may be purchased online at