Sorry we have not posted for such a long time! We moved from our glorious dwellings at Ucross to our home-stays and have been working all day to get our play ready in the Carriage House theater. Yesterday, we had a five hour tech rehearsal ( which I am told is very good, but still felt like quite a long time) and we are going to spend the next couple of days just working out the kinks. Thanks to Nijae and Baize, all of our costumes are set and thanks to Chris's tireless work the past couple of days, we are almost all finished with the lights. Hopefully, we will get our set finished today or tomorrow.
I wanted to post a compilation of of our writings that we were going to use for our epilogue. We realized that it was basically a scripted version the conversations we had been having about the play, which would have curtailed the community discussions we were trying to have. But all of our different writings just came together so easily and nicely that I felt it was a shame for no one to read it. So here it is:
Baize: Where does the value lie in confronting the things and people and ideas you are scared of? Quite simply – why should terrorists be talked to? It has taken me more time and thought to warm up to this play then I first thought I would need. It’s not that I didn’t trust it – I just didn’t really understand. Because I wasn’t listening. These stories are not only fascinating – they are important; important because they are the truth.
Hil: A play, such as the very one we are doing now, has the uncanny ability to present the ultimate truth, the horrifying, beautiful, disgusting, ultimate truth of real people, to an audience, and they can listen without fear or intimidation. Or if they do feel fear or intimidation, it is softened to a point where they will not be distracted into not listening or running away. Theatre can present a truth to an audience poised and ready to listen.
Mad: People would ask if it (the play) was for/against terrorism and I would answer that it did not express any such view but that terrorism is all relative.
Ni: Location. Location. Location.
Mad: One mustn’t lose track of geographical difference and cultural difference when they examine people different than themselves.
Adam: Characters in this play have been called irreparably different. I would argue that although their beliefs conflict enormously, the people, at heart, are fighting for similar goals.
Baize: It is so easy to be scared into silence by the things we don’t understand. And as easy as it is to blindly accept the difference of those and that which we do not understand, with a little thought, it can be just as easy to recognize the universality of our wishes and dreams and hopes as human beings. This is not to say we are all the same – we are all extraordinarily different, often times, irreparably so. But somewhere, across all our nations and histories and wars and wrongs, there lies an undeniable hope, and a undeniable penchant and potential for forgiveness.
Ni: Lines on a map become prejudices in a mind become slanders from a mouth become malice in a heart become lines on a map.
And I wonder if I would believe what she believed had I only been born across the ocean.
Mad: I hope the audience is able to overcome the thick dialects, the fact over-load and the presentation of so many horrific stories to see through to the characters portrayed. The actors have tried hard to make real people come to life that although you might not want to like them for what they did—you recognize similarities in them of yourself or someone you know.
Max: However, simply by presenting these individuals onstage, separate from their audience, allows for a space to open up that can be filled again with difference. It’s too easy to not force yourself to find those human similarities, and it’s risky to try. Who are we without our beliefs?
Hil: Truth can hurt us not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and subconsciously. Ultimately, if we lose everything, the one thing we still have is our emotions and our subconscious, and if those in turn are marred by something as powerful as the truth, then we are lost. So this is why we fear it so – it is the one thing that can completely destroy us.
Mike: We are all American. We know very little else. The first time WE were attacked on our soil in history I was 14. It was a shock. But in their country they’ve lived with violence their entire lives. But I’m sure they still feel shock and fear when they hear an explosion or gunshot. They choose to obtain the power they lost through violence. And after we were powerless, we attacked them on their soil. We became two opposing groups.
Ni: Am I the terrorist?
Chris: The truth we fight for is “democracy” yet this system hasn’t even successfully functioned at home. We’re just trying to project our idiotic sense of security upon the world’s canvas.
Hil: So in this fight of “terrorism,” truthfully, we are fighting someone’s truth, what they ultimately believe in, and their sense of unity. We are tearing that apart because of our own truths. Truth destroys, yet truth unifies.
Nathan: His is an act of savagery; ours is an act of bad luck. His story will be labeled as coming from someone who is sub-human, whose struggle doesn’t matter; ours will be but a blurb in the timeline of fighting for democracy and the continuation of freedom. Because ultimately what we’re both fighting for is the protection of ourselves and our loved ones.
Mike: When we hear the word terrorist we immediately feel fear, a temporary loss of safety.
Bk: I saw it happen. I saw the second plane crash into the center of our city. And that hurt, the trauma of being a witness to the death of individuals and part of our generation’s hope, feels more real with each passing year.
Mike: The word is the embodiment of misunderstanding.
Ni: We are what we believe because we believe in who we are. I am a liberal agnostic democrat. Why? Because of my experience. All the while, I give credit to myself as if I know something my opponents don’t. But, really I am just a product of circumstance.
Chris: After letting the events of the day soak in, I think I remember feeling annoyed that this had to happen– that normalcy and routine were all shook up. Why did this have to happen to us right now? When I had so much to do. They were dead and nothing felt safe anymore– I felt like I had grown up a lot in a day.
Ni: My character was raped and beaten. She is weak, uncertain, and broken by her experiences. But I keep imagining her in the fields of Uganda, wielding an AK47, and those people would have seen her as the most terrifying thing. They saw her as this monster.
Grace: There is a threshold towards the end of childhood when a child begins to rifle through radical thoughts; imagine that you are again discovering sexuality, challenging your parents and experimenting, or at least thinking about experimenting, with drugs. This is the form an American adolescence takes. Now imagine for the first time that you are working every day just to have enough food to eat or that instead of disobeying orders that are made to protect you and help you grow that you have to make the decision whether or not to stand up to an oppressive force that controls the sense of safety of your friends and family.
Mike: What we want our children to see is who we want them to be
Mad: Youth is powerfully moldable—little kids are shaped and molded to believe what their parents believe so help save youth by providing them with unbiased truths! Like my character Elizabeth says, “You can give adolescents the feeling they’re shaping history,”—you indeed can and so this shaping of history needs to start progressing and break out of this cycle of regurgitation of their parents and elder’s thoughts and prejudices.
Mike: When people fear another group of people, they are less likely to talk to them, to think of them as an equal.
Baize: We are lucky to live in a country where we do not need to fear for our safety and/or lives on a daily basis. We are lucky to live in a place where we do not need to fear our children will resort to pre-existing terrorist groups and movements as a way of survival. But why does that mean that those who live such horrors as a daily reality should be ignored?
Ni: But she was only playing a role. She was just as human and vulnerable as they were. But being labeled a terrorist took away her humanity
Hilary: nothing has just one side.
Mike: Instead they attack them and destroy the original element of humanity in themselves. “Talking to Terrorists is the only way to beat them,” it’s the only way we find our humanity again.
Nathan: In losing this comprehension and communication, we’ve destroyed a method for dealing with terrorists, for if we knew what was angering them, perhaps we would take steps to remove that source.
Grace: The key to safety is trust and the key to trust is understanding. We must work to understand our enemies in order to feel safe against them.
Ni: Terrorists and heroes are the same—depending on which television station you’re listening to.
Nathan: How can they do such things, you might then ask? To begin to answer this, we must begin with truth, and because we’re only truly familiar with our own, lets start by trying to understand theirs.
Hil: It (truth) is the one thing that can save us when nothing else can. No person, place, or thing but our truth and our whole-hearted belief in that truth can save, touch, and free us past any point. Jesus – truth is such a huge and glowing concept, I could go on forever.
Adam: Bridging that separation is a different thing to do, but it starts with understanding your truth (which is harder than it sounds) and understanding your opponent ‘s truth.
Ni: It’s never personal.
BK: This is personal. I feel an obligation to talk about Israel. To stop the bitter taste that might be left in your mouth. This play might shake your conceptions of America and cause you reevaluate your relationship with this country. But it won’t alter a base love of and connection to America, nor should it.
Jamie: It is important to remember that the goal of this play is not to instruct, but merely to expose. The words of the individuals interviewed for this play do not exist in isolation, or as didactic symbol of the beliefs, opinions, or goals of the playwright, this production, or the individual members of our company.
Mad: When we hear the last line of the play we must stop ourselves from hating that little girl but force ourselves to look at her situation as a Palestinian who has been fighting Israelis for her whole lifetime.
Hopefully the little girl, like you, will realize she needs to look at the situation from more than one point of view.
BK: but Israel is different. It does not reserve space in your heart. And this play further batters the country I love in the country I live in.
Ni: How do you examine truth? Well, first you take away the subjective perspective, forget about your beliefs, where you’re from, what you learned, your experiences; make a clean slate. But that’s virtually impossible.
BK: I need to be a balancing voice about Israel, adding my stories about walking around the Old City of Jerusalem and my family’s pride and joy at living and serving there to the other, anti-Israel aspect of the play. I want to be a part of this play because of these controversial issues, because of how it engages fundamental parts of my identity.
Adam: You obviously know that I did not blow up a building in the South of England in October 1984, and you hopefully do not think that I actually believe in using violence to convey a message. However, when I am onstage as this character, I need to convey his truth to show his beliefs and how his truth and other characters’ truths are different.
Ni: Our truth is going to always distort the way we view the truth of others. But realizing that can benefit in our understanding of others.
Adam: Those differences in truth– understanding facts that both do and do not support our beliefs– are the jumping off points for conscious, respectful discussion of the larger problems.
Hil: Ultimately, my point is this – truth is powerful, and can be created easily. Once created, it is harder than anything to alter to take way. Therefore, we must learn and try to understand all truths presented to us because only then will we begin to naturally connect all of our truths to one another.
BK: My pain was a sharp blow- hers is a dull ache that will not end.
Adam: I feel confident saying that I understand the Palestinian schoolgirl’s truth, and I respect the circumstance, of why she believes what she does.
Ni: We each live a flawed existence.
Mike: Do they need help? That’s what we’re being told we’re doing is helping them, giving them democracy. But we never asked them if they wanted help. Even when we’re doing “good” we use a gun.
Grace: The whole wide range of human interaction (from two people falling in love to many nations fighting a war) is based upon communication.
Ni: Talk to me.
Talk to me.
Talk to me.
Grace: This exchange of thoughts, which is one of the most distinctly human traits, is brought through I the form of Language. How, then, do we expect to interact successfully without utilizing this most basic principle? We must talk to each other and not just in conspiracy against the “other”, but to the other, as well. For really, there is not “other” that is not also a part of the much larger “we”.
Ni: Am I the terrorist?
Baize: Dialogue – this play is about dialogue – engaging in it, initiating it, and inciting enough knowledge and interest to sustain it. Through such interaction comes the ultimate goal, the most profound step – understanding.
Mad: We meant no harm by this play. We did not want to offend anyone. We apologize for some of the violent stories but why protect your self from the truths of others?
Adam: As Marie-Helene Carlson put it, “Documentary is a way of telling a story you believe there’s truth in.”
Nathan: In a series of essays written by philosopher Judith Butler entitled The Precarious Life, the author deals with the issue of forgiveness and acts of terrorism in the post 9/11 world. Putting forth the claim that our country’s response to the attacks was unjustified because we failed to acknowledge the truths of those who perpetrated the acts, Butler advocates forgiveness and awareness as a way to heal the wounds between “US” and those whom we label “THEM.”
I find this argument to be at once honest and correct, for, as a person who doesn’t wish to define himself by his nation, but the global community in general, I believe that rooting out the cause of terrorism will require a much deeper dialogue about our shared humanity.
Ni: What is a terrorist?
Nathan: And, yes; terrorists are human as well.
Ni: It defines a paranoia; a fear. But does it define a person? It can be applied to a person in order to eliminate the fact that they’re essentially human. Like you. Like me.
We dilute them with this word. It makes it much easier to bomb their homeland. It makes it much easier to disregard their civilian casualties.
They’re terrorists right?
BK: I did not want to end the play with hope. I wanted to end it with her pain, her accusation to us, to me, to both parts of me, Israel and America, for what I have done to her.
Grace: Hope is a mind game--a trick of time. It does not guarantee a better outcome, it exists as much amid destruction as it does when we are at peace. You cannot qualify hope as worthy or not. We must have hope no matter how likely it is we will be right in the end or we will prevail. Hope is how we survive--it is how we counter conflict. A philosopher might call it foolish to expend so much time honoring a false ending, but it is the journey toward that end that we have to account for. How did I live my life? Did I live in fear or did I believe in the possibility of the future?
Baize: The last line – it’s scary to hear, but it’s necessary, because for many, many, people in the world, it is the truth. The raw, bitter truth. And while it hits us in our most sensitive places and hurts the past of us that have ceased to feel sore. It is a painful reality we must be strong enough to endure. For it is only through acceptance and an acknowledgement of reality that we will be able to achieve progress; as an individual, as a nation, as a world.
Max: I hesitated to present a play that ends like this one does.
Jamie: This play is, by its very nature, a challenge.
Max: A British play, presented to an American audience about terrorism, especially while it is such a politically and culturally salient concept, seems to be asking a lot of our audience, who is generally free from facing difference.
Jamie: It requires the flexibility, patience, acceptance, and curiosity of both our company and you, our audience.
Max: I was afraid, and am afraid, of buying in to a stereotype that all Middle Easterners feel this way. But, I decided that self-reflection should not imply anti-patriotism, and is, in fact, something patriotic. But that bridge still needs to be crossed, and even built, between you and the Bethlehem school-girl. How do we do that?
Jamie: The stories, characters, and beliefs presented in the past two hours may have been upsetting, difficult, or borderline unacceptable. Yet at the end, you, the audience, and we, the company, stand in a position to accept an invaluable opportunity. We cannot and do not ask you to believe, accept, or even support what you have heard here tonight. But what we do ask is that you continue to listen and question. It is only when we allow our beliefs to be questioned we can truly begin to learn and discuss. Please join us in continuing this important discussion following the show, and in continuing the dialogue even after you leave the theater tonight. Skepticism is crucial to better understanding. Prejudice and assumption is not. We invite you to pick up where the play has left off; to continue this conversation.
Max: If you can’t find your “common ground” with the characters we play, perhaps you can find it with the actors who have embodied these people for the past six weeks. Talk to us.