For Immediate Release: A Jew and a Palestinian cross the cultural divide in groundbreaking anthology

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Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas Edited by Stephen Orlov and Samah Sabawi

Montreal: Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival – Saturday, April 29

Ottawa: Ottawa International Writers Festival – Sunday, April 30


How did two strangers, a Boston-born Jew in Montreal and a Gaza-born Palestinian in Melbourne, embark on such a challenging artistic journey to edit Double Exposure: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas, the first English-language anthology worldwide in any genre of drama, prose or poetry by Jewish and Palestinian writers? From literally opposite sides of the world, join award-winning playwrights Stephen Orlov of Montreal and Samah Sabawi of Melbourne as they discuss the complexities, obstacles and creative process in editing this groundbreaking collection. For the events- Bridging the Diaspora Divide -expect a lively and frank discussion at Montreal’s Blue Metropolis on April 29 and Ottawa’s Writers Festival on April 30. The programs, moderated by Playwright Leila Buck, Montreal Gazette drama critic Jim Burke in Montreal and contributing playwright Arthur Milner in Ottawa, also feature scene readings.

“Samah and I met only once at the early stage of our editing journey,” Orlov revealed. “I think we were both surprised at how quickly we bonded in our work via Skype and emails. We faced so many complicated artistic and political hurdles on this two-year journey, but we never wavered in our resolve or our mutual respect.”

This provocative collection of drama stylistically turns the political into the personal. The seven plays vary in genre between drama and comedy, in aesthetic between realism and surrealism, in setting between the Diasporas and Israel/Palestine, and in the political opinions of their characters. Collectively they offer distinct diaspora perspectives on this seemingly endless conflict in their ancestral homeland. As the editors state in their anthology preface, “We categorically reject the notion expressed by some that writing from the safety of our homes, far from the heat of battle, negates our right, our reason or our ability to address the issue in public. The Diaspora journey from page to stage is marked by the cultural footprints of our ancestors and the emotional, material and familial ties of so many to the conflict. This is an issue for all of humanity, not merely for Jews and Palestinians.” Read the full preface here.

“The powerful and dramatic situations from the plays in Double Exposure transported me into the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza and placed me side by side with three dimensional characters struggling to keep their hope, their humanity and their moral compass amidst the brutalities, large and small, of the most intractable of conflicts. Essential reading.” —David S. Craig, 2016 Helen Hayes Award–nominated playwright and president of Playwrights Guild of Canada

Orlov and Sabawi will be speaking at festivals and events in Canada, USA and Australia (please see below) about the plays and their collaboration editing this captivating anthology about the most inflammatory Page 2 of 3 ongoing regional conflict of the past seventy years. The book tackles one of the remaining thematic taboos for most major theatres in the Western world, fuelled for decades by prejudice, ignorance and timidity.

“This diverse mix of dramatic styles and voices is a brave, passionate and collective call, a theatrical catalyst for investigation and resistance.” — Eve Ensler, Obie Award-winning playwright of The Vagina Monologues

This unique anthology about the Israel-Palestine conflict includes three plays written by Jewish playwrights, three by Palestinian playwrights, and one by both, along with interviews with the playwrights exploring the inspirations and challenges they experienced both in writing and staging their work. The plays are penned by highly acclaimed dramatists now residing in the diaspora of five continents: Bitterenders by Hannah Khalil in Ireland; Facts by Arthur Milner in Gatineau, Québec; The Peace Maker by Natasha Greenblatt in Toronto; Sabra Falling by Ismail Khalidi in Chile; Sperm Count by Stephen Orlov in Montreal; Tales of a City by the Sea by Samah Sabawi in Australia; and Twenty-One Positions: A Cartographic Dream of the Middle East by Abdelfattah AbuSrour in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, West Bank, Lisa Schlesinger in America, and Naomi Wallace in England; with introductions and interviews by award-winning American playwrights, Karen Hartman and Betty Shamieh. Read playwrights bios here.

“An extraordinary collection of plays penned by some of our most courageous and compassionate playwrights.” — Jamil Khoury, artistic director of Chicago’s Silk Road Rising Theatre.

Sabawi’s inspiration for Tales of a City by the Sea and later for the anthology was influenced by her own experiences and stories of family and loved ones under Israeli siege in Gaza. She elaborates, “We’ve been through very tough times. The worst for me was during the 51 days in 2014 when Gaza was being bombarded and I feared for my family’s safety. But you always need to pick yourself up and stay the course. I believe this anthology has a vital role to play in challenging western convictions about the conflict and in breaking the taboos that we’ve normalized for so long in mainstream theatres.” The play’s simultaneous world premieres in Melbourne and the West Bank, along with an Australian tour, played to sold-out houses, but its Gaza premiere had to be cancelled because of destruction and casualties from Israeli bombing raids.

Orlov’s play Sperm Count had its world premiere in London during a politically-charged time shortly after 9-11 and the launching of the War in Afghanistan. The theatre received several anonymous bomb threats, which the cast and crew bravely defied, fortunately without incident. He is now polishing Birthmark, the third in his dual-diaspora trilogy, and explains his role as a progressive Jewish dramatist: “Plays that promote peace and social justice must be delivered by characters portraying a range of human frailty and strength along the moral spectrum, characters in conflict true to their times, their place and their culture. My greatest challenge as a Jewish playwright tackling plays about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is creating with anecdotal accuracy, authentic Palestinian characters free of stereotypical depiction. I suspect the same is true for most Palestinian playwrights creating Jewish characters. Cultural appropriation must be avoided, but if writers don’t dare to cross the cultural divide with diligence and mutual respect, we will fall short of our visionary goal.”

Bridging the Diaspora Divide: Jewish and Palestinian playwrights come together in ground breaking anthology

Blue Met– Sat. April 29, 1:30-3:00 pm, moderated by Montreal Gazette critic and playwright Jim Burke Hotel 10, Salle Godin- 10 Sherbrooke St. west, Montreal Tickets

Ottawa Writers Festival- Sun. April 30, 2:00-3:30, moderated by playwright Arthur Milner, Christ Church Cathedral, 414 Sparks St., Ottawa Tickets


Other Canada, US and Australia appearances at festivals and events for Double Exposure:

New York City -Book Culture –April 23, 4:00-6:00 pm, bookstore branch at 536 W 112th St., NYC, also with Ismail Khalidi, contributing playwright and co-editor of Inside/Outside: Six plays from Palestine and the Diaspora, co-sponsored with Theatre Communication Group (US) and Playwrights Canada Press.

Ottawa -sponsored by Middle East Dialogue Group, April 27, by invitation only.

Toronto -Canadian Play Outlet – Orlov and Sabawi will be available for Toronto media interviews May 3-5 while in town for their panel and reading, by invitation only, at Playwrights Guild of Canada’s launch of their new drama bookstore, Canadian Play Outlet.

Sydney -Sydney Writers Festival – May 26, and Whitlam Institute of Western Sydney University – May 29

Melbourne -Side Door  – June 4 at St. John’s Uniting Church in Elsternwick, and Readings (2016 international bookstore of the year) – June 5, at St. Kilda branch.


Montreal Media Contact: Shelley Pomerance 514 270-1199

Ottawa and Toronto Media Contact: Stephen Orlov: 514 751-2548


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