Last spring, Sandbox member, Gin Hammond, forwarded an email which contained a call for artist to work with the Palestinian National Theatre/Al-Hakawati on a joint Palestinian American production about the relations between our two cultures. It was partially funded by the US Consulate in Jerusalem. I was one of four artists selected through an on-line audition process and spent eight weeks in East Jerusalem creating a show with four Americans (including Seattle artist, Curtis Taylor) and eight Palestinians. The show was called From Jerusalem with Love…Naji,. It was well received and toured to several cities in the West Bank Including Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Nazareth, Ramallah and of course, Jerusalem.
The director, Kamel elBasha invited me to return again this year for another eight- week residency. This time for a play about Martin Luther King Jr. translated into Arabic, using an all-Palestinian cast, an American Gospel choir, and me. The text is by Stanford University scholar Clayborne Carson, who is also the editor and publisher of MLK's papers. Kamel has decided to deconstruct the play by setting it as a rehearsal three days before the play's opening in order to interject current issues that relate to the Palestinian's particular circumstances. So I play the role of the director inside the play, and will be the liaison for the other Americans joining us. There is a role of an assistant director who acts as my translator.
We rehearse six days a week, six hours a day straight and it is all in Arabic so, quite exhausting for me. I speak English of course with my part being written through improvisations. I love working with this director and this theatre and have experience working in other countries without knowing the language so I welcome and am honored by the challenge. It's an interesting time to be in the Middle East with all that is happening in the Arab world and we get such little information about these particular people. They are very warm and hospitable and have a very rich culture. Next week Dr. Carson and the Gospel singers will arrive which will bring the much needed soul of the movement and the black culture into the project. Accompanying them will be a film crew, documenting the project and Dr. Carson's work in non-violence here.
I will eventually be keeping a blog of the experience and have many posting from last year so please feel free to visit: www.mikkuhlman.wordpress.com
In the meantime, don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions I am here because of our network and love the community in which I am based, so thank you all for your support and I will be blogging soon.
With love and art, Mik