Four Days into Fringe with Pangs Finale

It’s late Monday night, or actually early Tuesday morn, and catching the breath is called for (though catching Z’zzzs makes a little more sense). I actually wish someone else were writing the encomiums; it seems besides the point to reflect on our own success on this one, but we all just want to state, for the blog-o-meter, that this festival’s an artistic and audience hit through and through, thanks to staff, artists, and, of course, the audience with all the good vibes it’s been generating. We’ve just performed an entire season’s worth of drama in four days, and the results have been, well, spectacular, inspirational, ambiguous, triumphant, impressively provocative, disarmingly candid. Ambiguous because we’re not sure how many people are going to show up to any given show. Although we’ve been averaging around 75 per show, we’ve had one show of 150 (like tonight’s piercing IN THE CROSSING with Leila Buck), with the only disappointing numbers coming from 55 people seeing FROM TEL AVIV TO RAMALLAH: A BEATBOX JOURNEY on Sunday at 6 pm while 75 were taking in VIA DOLOROSA at Busboys and Poets at the same time. Oh, and the Friday 3 pm first performance ARIEL SHARON/THEODOR HERZL only brough in 35 people, but that was more like a dress rehearsal anyway. That show is doing incredibly well as a work of drama – “Epic Shoestring” we call it. And people LOVED it last night; loved the humor and the harrowing history of Sharon, Man of Battle — and Herzl, Man of Insane and Prophetic Dreams. Hell, all the pieces are being loved. keep reading
Yuri and Sharif really are the perfect Fringe pairing; David Jackson’s the cosummate DC theater pro and his keeping the flame of VIA lit all these years is a moving and inspiring spectacle. Audiences are reacting so appreciatively to the ambition of the festival — I’ve actually been “thanked” by people I’ve never met, over and over; people returning to show after show — appreciating the range of work being presented on this common theme.

Though the festival continues for 6 more days, I’ve now rubbed shoulders with all 8 of our shows. How has that happened? By having Robin Soans’ ARAB ISRAELI COOKBOOK rehearse for its Peace Café community reading this past Sunday morning at 9:30, while Dr. Akbar Ahmed’s NOOR, which doesn’t officially bow in until Thursday night, had an extraordinary in-house reading just today in front of packed library crowd. Aaron Davidman’s CHASING JUSTICE/SEEKING TRUTH, which doesn’t begin until Wednesday, has been unfolding in my office in intense artistic sessions; that show is the commissioned piece that really got this whole Middle East Festival idea rolling in the first place.

Most rewarding moment of all: Sunday night’s artists panel when 25 actors, writers, directors and performance artists taking part in our festival took to the stage to salute the cast of PANGS OF THE MESSIAH (with 75 people in the audience staying up with us until 11:30 at night). The hour long session discussing and appreciating the echoes in each other’s works was really a beautiful artistic sharing.

We’re trying desperately to bring PANGS back in September for a 3 week run. Stay tuned to see if we succeed. In the meantime, here’s the fourth of our PANGS video streams. The fifth one will get posted shortly.