from UM student Kristen Brey
I came away from the reading of “A Railway to Damascus” very impressed with the quality of acting and story telling with only five hours of rehearsal. I could not keep my eyes off of the actress reading Sarah, and despite her modern clothes and the script in her hand, she took me on Sarah’s journey. Her performance, along with the other actors, kept my attention throughout the show and further sparked my interest in educating myself on the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
During the talk back, I shared my appreciation of learning a part of history I knew little about through these politically fused plays. I tried to best articulate that this issue and these cultures were something I had only ever learned about through the news, and to be exposed to them through the venue of theatre, was, to me, one of the beauties of theatre. I fear that I was not as eloquent as I hoped to be, because the director, Peter Sinai, assertively pushed back against my comment, asking if I did not feel like this piece was a looking glass into human emotion and a human reaction to a set of circumstances. Of course, I did feel that way. As I have already stated, the power of the lead actress left me with no other choice than to feel as though I was experiencing her story with her. Yet, the tone in his voice when he shot that question back at me, made me feel as though I either didn’t correctly articulate what I was trying to say, or that Mr. Sinai did not think that this play could be both an expression of human experiences AND a glimpse into a part of history the audience may or may not be familiar with.
For me, the best period pieces, whether on stage or screen, are those that maintain fidelity to the politics and fashion of the period while charging the story with thoughtful writing and superb performances, providing the audience with the authenticity of human emotion and of the reality of what it was to live through that period. For me, despite the fact that this was only a reading and not a full production, I felt that A Railway to Damascus fulfilled both of those requisites.
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from subscriber Michelle Sender
On Monday night at the talk back after “A Railway to Damascus” with Sinai Peter, I mentioned that the decision that Sarah makes perhaps is a question of “thick” relations, i.e. our family/relatives, group/tribe vs. the outside, ‘the other’ even though in this case Sarah is definitely pulled by ‘the other’/thin relations. In the play the author makes the conflict real and difficult—and I felt Sarah should have followed her gut feeling to protect her Arab employer/protector and to me was confirmed as the play unfolds and shows that you never know how your actions will play out which in this case was deadly on two counts.
The concepts of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ relations as determinants of an individual’s response to situations is articulated in Avishai Margalit’s
book THE ETHICS OF MEMORY, c2002 by Harvard University Press. I’m in a study group with Rabbi Danny Zemel at Temple Micah which is reading this book.
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from Emily Gold
In the beginning of the play Sarah, the main character says a line that I feel sums up the whole meaning of A Railway to Demascus. While talking about Arabs and Jews she says, “unless we learn to live with one another, we’ll have to kill each other”. This quote reflects my feelings about the play, and about the Arab/Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Because these two peoples see each other as enemies with no common goals, a young woman in the play, Nini, and many innocent people in real life have been killed.
This play was very touching. I felt myself moved by the decisions that Sarah had to deal with during her life, as a Jew working for an Arab whom had befriended her. The conflict between this loyalty for a friend of a different “group” and her family loyalty to her brother really drove the plot and led to the very interesting ending. This play, to me, ended with no conclusion. There was no happy ending, no resolution to the issues at stake, just a woman trying to survive in a place of turmoil.
I feel that this play showed a different side of the conflict that most are not exposed to. I had never really learned about what it was like in Israel before the British left and it was given to the Jews as the State of Israel. This play brought a different side of the issue to the table, one that I really appreciated being introduced to.