Monday, July 29, 2013

Seeing Through Mahmoud Darwish’s ‘Eyes’

Ted Merwin, Special To The Jewish Week
IssaNorman Issa is best known as the star of “Arab Labor,” an Israeli TV show about an Arab journalist who toils to become accepted in Israeli society; it is one of the first shows to bring an Arab perspective into mainstream Israeli pop culture.

His new labor, so to speak, is to transform the poetry of the controversial Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish into a stage play about peace. The transformation isn’t such a smooth one.

Issa directs “Eyes,” a new play based on Darwish’s poetry, in which the Arab-Israeli conflict is personified by Darwish, his mother, his teacher and his Israeli lover. It runs next Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening at the Between the Seas Festival, a showcase for contemporary Mediterranean culture. The festival, which takes place at the Wild Project in the East Village, also features Amos Pinhasi’s “Mediterraneo,” a solo dance piece about an Israeli boy growing up by the sea.

“Eyes” is a co-production of Igal Ezraty’s Arab-Hebrew Theater and Issa’s own Elmina Theater for Children, both of which are based in the tourist district of Old Jaffa. Best known for the long-running hit, “Let’s Dance,” a wordless play about the history of Jaffa Café and Dance Hall from the onset of the Zionist immigration to the present, the Arab-Hebrew Theater Center recently presented two plays, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, at the prestigious Israel Festival in Jerusalem.

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