FROM PEÑASCO TO PALESTINE: Adaptation & Connection

If you’re going to be at the NMM, don’t miss the performance!, {SATURDAY, APRIL 1 @ 8:30p}

Almost a year ago today, Rebekah Tarín and I sat in a coffee shop in Brooklyn discussing what a dream it would be for her still-in-process adaptation of “The Gaza Mono-Logues” to be produced not just at her collective’s theater in Peñasco, New Mexico, but far and wide– with audiences full of JVP members, artists and cultural workers, folks from other justice work communities- both with whom we already have relationships and with whom we hope to build, and hopefully even in Palestine.

Rebekah was adapting the script by invitation of Iman Aoun, one of the co-founders of ASHTAR Theatre, an award-winning non-profit established in 1991 as the first theatre training organization for youth in Palestine. They offer local students in both the West Bank and Gaza year-round drama training programs, introduce theatre to governmental, private and UNRWA schools, provide training to create drama teachers for elementary schools, and pioneered ‘Forum Theatre,’ which engages audiences to interact on stage with essential social and political issues, transforming passive audiences into pro-active, involved participants.

ASHTAR’s landmark project is ‘The Gaza Mono-logues,’ which was launched in 2010 as an artistic global project designed to bring the voices of Gaza’s children to the world, with a view to lift the siege on Gaza and establish solidarity between youth internationally. The monologues have been performed by thousands of young actors in 36 countries and in 18 languages.

Rebekah and the Peñasco Theatre Collective (of which she is a co-founder and core member), had never done a production about Palestine before, so after local auditions, casting, scheduling, and before entering rehearsal mode, they invited Samia Assed, a feminist Palestinian American with deep family roots in New Mexico, to lead an educational workshop with the cast and crew on the history of Palestine, the Nakba and the occupation. (Samia is currently the Board President at the Albuquerque Center For Peace and Justice, where she works to dismantle Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism.)

As the creative process took off, Rebekah brought on friends and collaborators: New Mexico native dancer and choreographer Serena Rascon; and Luis Guerra, an LA-based award-winning composer & music producer, who mastered an original score for the performance.

Luis Guerra Serena Rascon

In October 2016, the show premiered in the 75-year-old Peñasco Theatre some 50 miles north of Santa Fe. And now six months later, its newest iteration is about to premiere at the JVP National Member Meeting in Chicago.

The cast in a scene from the production at the Peñasco Theater

“The Gaza Monologues: An Adaptation in 5 Voices” is a bold, innovative production incorporating an amalgam of monologues written by Palestinian youth in 2010, exploring issues of trauma, occupation/displacement, memory, isolation and grief, family relationships, and prospects for the future… all of this through physical theatre, movement, dramaturgy, and visual art. The performance respectfully articulates the stories of 33 Palestinian youth who survived the bombing of Gaza (2008-09) in which over 1,400 Palestinians (mostly civilians) were killed by the Israeli military, and their struggle to live day to day under the Israeli occupation. The performance serves to break the isolation of Palestinian youth through storytelling, increase our community’s understanding of Palestinian culture and experiences, examine obstacles and pathways to peace– and our role in it, provide an outlet for New Mexico youth to empower themselves through non-traditional creative expression, and inspire community members to advocate for Palestinian liberation and a reordering of U.S financial priorities from endless war to investing in quality of life initiatives that honor human life, support healthy communities, families and the ecological survival of the planet.

Peñasco Theatre Collective hopes to mobilize support for ASHTAR as they fight to keep their premises in Ramallah open… Learn how you can support HERE.

The Peñasco Theater, New Mexico


[By Shalva Wise, JVP Artist Council Coordinator, with content from Rebekah Tarín, Artist Council member, co-founder of Peñasco Theatre Collective, & Director of The Gaza Mono-Logues: An Adaptation in 5 Voices]

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