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'Desert Sunrise' at Theater For The New City

Desert Sunrise, written and directed by Misha Shulman, plays at the Theater For The New City from the 29 Sep - 23 Oct 2005

Desert Sunrise describes a natural, simple bonding by people who are supposed to be afraid of each other. It is a drama the arises out of a chance encounter between an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian man of this region. Taking refuge in a desert wadi, the two men are initially antagonistic, but each embodies an openness that exists within the majorities within both societies. They seemingly overcome their root distrust for each other until they are joined by the Palestinian man's beloved, who embodies an odd, impermeable shell of ideology and radical zeal that neither of the men can penetrate.

As the three reach into their own pasts, they not only begin to find similarities, but also begin to understand the psychological and social fabric behind their political beliefs. Using humor, music, poetry and dance the play unfolds toward its sorrowful yet hopeful ending. Over the course of one memorable night the process of mutual understanding and forgiveness begins, halts, gets rejected, but is ultimately embraced by the pained characters.

The play uses English, Hebrew and Arabic dialogue between the three characters and is interspersed with choral odes, performed by onstage musicians and adapted by Shulman from various translations of Aeschylus' "Agamemnon." It also employs Indonesian shadow techniques that are shared with Egyptian puppetry.

Desert Sunrise's cast features: Aubrey Levy (Canadian) as the Israeli soldier, Haythem Noor (Egyptian) as the shepherd and Alice Borman (Tunisian) as the Palestinian girl. Playing Israeli soldiers in the denouement are Yifat Sharabi (Israeli) and Morteza Tavakoli (Iranian). There are dances by Bhavani Lee, who toured three years with Cirque Du Soleil.

The production has set design by Celia Owens and lighting design by Itai Erdal and choral odes scored by Israeli musician Yoel Ben-Simhon .

Author/director Misha Shulman says, "Everything in the Middle East is fuzzy and you don't know where the truth is, but with the cave dwellers, everything is crystal clear. There are layers of oppression here, but that of the Israelis is clearest. It's like everything that's going on the West Bank, magnified to the extreme. On the one hand, there is an extreme selfishness, on the other, an unwillingness to turn to violence."

The production is influenced and inspired by Ta'ayush (, a peace movement that means living together in Arabic.

In addition, leading activists, both Israeli and Palestinian, will travel to New York during the production for post-performance discussions with the audience.

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