Post by Anna Troiano.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, April 23, 2017, a crowd packed the second floor of Book Culture, a cozy shop in Morningside Heights, New York. As people streamed in and found their seats, the event moderator Leila Buck and playwright Stephen Orlov reviewed their selected readings from the new play anthology everyone was gathering to celebrate.
Orlov and fellow playwright Samah Sabawi co-edited the new collection from Playwrights Canada Press, Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas. Thanks to the handy tech setup at the bookstore, Sabawi was able to connect via Skype on a projected screen. Due to recent “offensive travel restrictions,” Sabawi participated in the panel from Ottawa -- the next city on the Canadian leg of the anthology tour, which will continue next month in Australia. She chose to address the New York attendees via digital means to “overcome the tyranny of inhospitable borders”.
Ismail Khalidi, Leila Buck, Stephen Orlov, and Samah Sabawi (via Skype). Photo by Anna Troiano.
Readings from three of the plays in the anthology were presented, interspersed throughout the dynamic discussion, including selections from Tales of a City by the Sea by Samah Sabawi, Sperm Count by Stephen Orlov, and Sabra Falling by Ismail Khalidi -- the final member of the panel and co-editor of TCG’s 2015 anthology Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora.
A prominent topic throughout the afternoon was the relationship that the ongoing Israeli/Palestinian conflict has with art, and how it has been and continues to be represented (or not represented) in art. As theatremakers, the three panelists as well as Buck were each able to share personal anecdotes about how tough it is to combat censorship and insidious bigotry when it comes to plays dealing with these themes.
Leila Buck, Stephen Orlov, and Samah Sabawi (via Skype). Photo by Kevin Bitterman.
For this reason, Khalidi emphasized that it’s “incredibly important to support theatres that do take those chances, to support organizations like TCG, which has published countless anthologies of marginalized voices...
Something we hear a lot from mainstream theatres is ‘well, the literature just doesn’t exist,’ and obviously that’s a fallacy… when TCG and Playwrights Canada Press have a track record of publishing a wide body of really striking, challenging, powerful work from diverse writers.”
Leila Buck and Ismail Khalidi (foreground), Stephen Orlov (background). Photo by Kevin Bitterman.
The plays themselves within the anthology were also discussed (without giving too much away!), and when Buck opened up the conversation to the room for questions, even more people shared their own poignant personal experiences in relation to the short selections they had heard in the earlier readings.
Stephen Orlov, Ismail Khalidi, and Leila Buck. Photo by Anna Troiano.
When it came time to close the discussion itself and break for the author signing with Orlov and Khalidi, after Sabawi had said her goodbyes and ended her Skype call, Orlov wanted to make sure people understood the power of play anthologies like Double Exposure. “For those of you who aren’t theatre practitioners, for many lovers of literature, reading a play is a page-turner... and the reason is plays are about characters with conflict scene-by-scene from beginning to end.”
Check out TCG's video of the event below!
TCG book events are generously supported in part by the NYSCA.