Ari’s right when he says if you blink you miss something at Theater J–Sunday and Monday blew through here like the powerful winds that have been sending a wintry chill through Washington all week.
Sunday afternoon we hosted our first Artistic Director’s Roundtable of the season. The discussion was moving and significant–it was an honor to host three young women who have committed themselves to helping other women (and men, and children) in far off lands: Patty Pina, who works with the organization Women for Women doing important work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the world, was clear and direct and whip-smart in her observations on these issues; Elmina Kulasic of the Bosniak-American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who approaches the question of Bosnia from a very personal place–as a child she was kept in a Concentration Camp during the Bosnian War before her family managed to immigrate first to Germany and then to the United States–was inspiring in her optimism and hope for her native country and fellow Bosnians, and was extremely articulate when speaking about deeply personal and harrowing memories; and Elizabeth Hammond brought a fascinating perspective to the table as a person of Jewish decent who has spent a great deal of time in Bosnia recently–providing a lens for our community into the complex and often frustrating role that ethnic identity still plays in the way that part of the world gets along (or doesn’t).
Final thoughts focused on what is going on in Bosnia now–in other words, the conflict is not exactly “over”. Elimina wrote to me afterwards, “I hope that the audience saw that there is a need to talk about what happened in Bosnia during the war. The war ended, but the invisible, painful scars are still there.” Patty too spoke of the very human aspect of war–the faces and stories beyond the numbers and the statistics, “Our Founder and CEO, Zainab Salbi often says that war is like a flashlight on humanity. You see the best in people and the worst in people during war. Honey Brown Eyes reminds us all that war is not just an image on television – it affects real people, lives and families with names and faces. It happens in cities and towns and kitchens like the ones we all know – and it could happen to each of us.”
From stories of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing we moved on to Torture and Extreme Rendition for our first Monday night ETHICS AND WAR reading at Church Street Theater, so eloquently titled: Depositions on Water-Boarding: From the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel Testimony Before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. Our first foray into transcript theater was directed with creativity and verve by Jeffery Sichel and associate director Marietta Hedges–and was wonderfully acted by superstars from our theater community. Seeing Tim Getman up there working his way through the verbal gymnastics of the very real testimony from Steven Bradbury (Acting Head of the OLC) under the steady questioning of Rick Foucheux as Representative Jerry Nadler of NY reminded me why I love being a part of this community. I love watching these actors–okay actually, I love these guys, period–and to have seen the two of them face off in the moving production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN this summer, and to now see them channel their political sensibilities into this living, breathing piece of theater, it all makes me very proud.
The discussion afterwards was also inspiring, as it was hard to walk away from the questions asked by Kathryn Wichmann of the United Nations Association, “You’ve seen this now and you know what’s going on…and what are you doing? Are you going to your representatives? Are you speaking out?” without wondering those very things. What am I doing? What more can I do? And I mean that in a totally non-partisan way (or at least, I am trying to)–whatever you stand for–what are you doing to show your support (or dissent, for that matter)? Which segues us nicely into information about our next Monday night reading: The Trial of the Catonsville Nine–a historic piece about political action if ever there was one. But more on that soon. Stay tuned…