The Set Goes UP + New Video on Conceiving RETURN TO HAIFA Set Design

Always remarkable how, the morning after a closing night party, one set gets struck, a Ryder rental truck pulls into the loading dock, and tech director Tom Howley and his superb ensemble of hired hands, load in a new set, and reinstall our thrust stage extension, and a new floor gets laid down and new walls get positioned into place and the old set pieces sit in the hallway or move out to the dumpster — all in a day’s transition. In the case of RETURN TO HAIFA, we have the remarkable aspect of a major build being accorded a show that’s running for all of 15 days. Why, you might wonder, do we lavish such physical attention upon a book-in production that’s only here for such a short time?

Well, perhaps the video below—and appreciating all the artistry and emotion that’s gone into making the choices the comprise this deceptively simple set—will show you something as to what’s so UNIQUE about this upcoming, historic production.

Let us know your thoughts about this video—which, again, comes to us courtesy of filmmaker David Goldenberg, who’ll be documenting the American premiere of this Hebrew/Arabic language production in DC and its impact upon our audience.

The film’s working title: “Return to Haifa: A Moment of Empathy”

The tag: An Israeli theater production creates major off-stage drama in eliciting a brief moment of empathy on the part of both Jews and Palestinian Arabs for each other’s defining tragedy.

The Background:  In 2008, the staging of a Hebrew theatrical version of the Ghassan Kanafani’s Return to Haifa in Tel Aviv became a major “cause célèbre” in Israel. While widely acclaimed by theater critics, it set off demonstrations and journalistic attacks. Soon (January, 2011), in the midst of the stalled Peace talks, Theater J of Washington DC (just minutes away from the White House) will host the Hebrew/Arabic production by Israel’s flagship theater company, the Cameri. Will an international theatrical production expose the growing generational fault line in the American Jewish community over the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations? And will such a reckoning with the predicaments of its history actually reinvigorate Israel’s democratic health?


3 thoughts on “The Set Goes UP + New Video on Conceiving RETURN TO HAIFA Set Design

  1. About the Israeli “cause celebre” —
    who demonstrated? why? who attacked? with what purpose?
    For the American production — why not ask whether it can educate audiences about an unfamiliar part of Israeli history? offer a fresh
    image/metaphor for the struggle of two peoples over the land?

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