May 16, 2012

Welcome to the Occupation

Food and Fadwa playwrights Jacob Kader and Lameece Issaq

I didn't follow the New York Theatre Workshop/My Name Is Rachel Corrie controversy back in 2006 all that closely—I didn't have to, because my colleague at Playgoer, Garrett Eisler, owned the story (here's an early sample, and here's his verdict on the show once it arrived at the Minetta Lane). But when, in the years since, I heard about NYTW's production of Betty Shamieh's The Black Eyed, for instance, or its welcoming of the Arab-American Noor Theatre as a resident company, I couldn't help but think: Are Jim Nicola and co. doing their best to make good after all that bad blood?

Well, in reporting on Noor's debut production, Food and Fadwa, for the paper of record, I wasn't able to get Nicola to quite admit what I'd suspected—that Noor essentially represents the culmination of a years-long effort to turn a public relations fiasco into an opportunity for dialogue, and for an invitation to one group of artists who weren't actually a party to the Israel/Palestine-based fight over Rachel Corrie, the subject of which, despite her unequivocal identification with the Palestinian cause, was an American whose story was turned into a play by a pair of Brits.

It at least seems clear, though, that Noor might never have been born without that painful chapter to precede it, and I think for this happy result we can all be grateful.

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