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One-Woman Show About Jews and Palestinians Kicks Off L.A. Women’s Theatre Festival’s “Best of the Fest”

[dc]O[/dc]ver three February weekends at the Fremont Centre Theatre the 21st annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival is presenting “From the Best of the Fest.” This consists of encore performances of a number of the finest solo acts previously staged at the Festival, which shines a limelight on multi-culti female artists. “Best of the Fest” is being kicked off on February 6 with Sariyah Idan’s superb Middle Eastern-themed Homeless in Homeland.

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In addition to LAWTF, Idan, who is also a singer/songwriter, has performed Homeless in Homeland at: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe in NYC; The ONE Festival at Teatro Latea in NYC; The Warren Theater at the Brighton Fringe Festival, UK; Upstairs at the Southern Cross in London; etc. The “Best of the Fest” performance of Homeless is the L.A. premiere of Idan’s entire 80 minute one-woman show, directed and choreographed by dancer/playwright Shyamala Moorty

LAWTF per se takes place March 27-30.Below is an edited version of my original article that included a review of the half hour rendering of Homeless in Homeland presented during LAWTF’s 2011 Festival. (Note: Sariyah Idan was formerly known as Saria Idana.) This is followed by a listing of all of the artists appearing in “From the Best of the Fest,” with schedule, ticket, etc., information.

2011: Coming of Stage in LA

In 2011 the 18th annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival, which highlights females and the footlights, had the theme of “Coming of Age” – but you didn’t have to be Margaret Mead to appreciate it. Appropriately enough, LAWTF took place during Women’s History Month, March 24-27, at the Electric Lodgein Venice (California, not Italy!), and concluded March 30 with a special performance at the Actors’ Gang in Culver City.

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On March 26, 2011 I attended a multi-cultural program called “Globally Speaking,” which consisted of three one-woman shows and a solo dance performance. I enjoyed the entire evening, but was especially impressed by Saria Idana’s bravura performance and her Homeless in Homeland, which boldly tackles the thorny if topical topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Displaying enormous courage as well as talent, Idana – herself Jewish – has found a way to publicly dramatize questions progressive Jews are (usually) privately asking themselves and painful subjects. Idana dares to confront Zionist militarism and expansionism, bravely asking: What happens when the oppressed becomes the oppressor?

To explore these issues and the nature of contemporary Jewish identity, like Anna Deveare Smith in her “documentary theatre” (notably her award winning one woman show about the L.A. riots, Twilight: Los Angeles), Idana skillfully plays more parts than this math-challenged critic could count. Talk about “role playing”! Chameleon-like, Idana switches ethnicities, ages and genders with the ease mere mortals change their pants. Either Idana has a Sybil-like multiple personality or, like the German poet/ playwright Friedrich Schiller, her philosophy is: “Nothing human is alien to me.” (BTW, I am not only referring to the eponymous character Sally Field played in the 1976 made for TV movie, but to Sybil as defined in the Jewish Encyclopedia.com as a “Woman who prophesied, while in a state of frenzy, under the supposed inspiration of a deity. In the Jewish sense of persons who felt themselves spiritually impelled to speak to the people in the name of God…”)

Homeless in Homeland is based on Idana’s odyssey to Israel and Palestine wherein this 21st century female Ulysses explored her Jewish roots, and also valiantly bore witness to the Palestinians’ plight. On the West Bank this “native” New Yorker toured a refugee camp, which Idana brings vividly alive by transmuting herself into a presumably male Palestinian refugee named Jihad, her disgruntled tour guide of the overcrowded Deheishe. As a progressive Jew Idana struggles with the disconcerting notion that in order to create a Jewish homeland, a Diaspora of displaced, wandering Palestinians – who had lived on that land when the state of Israel was founded -- had to be created. Homeless in homeland, indeed.

The interdisciplinary theatre artist incorporates dance, costumes, imagery plus acting into the one-woman show she’s imaginatively written, and at one point stuns the audience by transforming the staid stage into a war zone. Your plot spoiler averse reviewer won’t reveal here how Idana does it, but suffice it to say that the performer launches a one-woman theatrical intifada, and there’s more action onstage than when the French revolutionaries take to the barricades in Les Mis. The no-holds-barred Idana literally bursts the fourth wall of theatre; methinks that the proscenium arch has not been built yet that could constrain this gifted actress/playwright/Samson. Whew!

“FROM THE BEST OF THE FEST” SCHEDULE

 Weekend #1- February 6-9. Theme: “Resilience”

  • Thursday, February 6, 2014 - SARIYAH IDAN ("Homeless in Homeland") In search of justice, a young Jewish-American woman travels to the Middle East in the face of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to gain an understanding of her cultural identity.
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Friday, February 7, 2014

  • BRENDA ADELMAN (“My Brooklyn Hamlet”). Brenda Adelman's tour de force personal story about what's possible when you forgive the unforgivable.
  • INGRID GRAHAM (“The Passage”) (5-7). This dance explores one woman's journey to self-acceptance through gratitude and meditation.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

  • INGRID GRAHAM (“The Passage”). See above.
  • ADA LUZ PLA (“Tracing My Lineage: A Story of a Puerto Rican Spitfire”). A proud Puerto Rican woman shares the colorful array of Latin women in her life in this excerpted storytelling piece.
  •  PAULINA SAHAGUN (“Nahuatl-Now What?”). From the Mercado in Guadalajara to bad hair days in LA, there is only one question: Does she know how to make tortillas?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

  • CLARINDA ROSS ("Spit Like a Big Girl"). This piece looks back on what a daughter learned from her college professor parents during her coming of age South, as well as her experience being the mother of a special needs child.

WEEKEND #2- February 13-16, 2014. Theme: “Love, Identity and Giving Voice”

Thursday, February, 13, 2014

  • VANESSA ADAMS-HARRIS (Who Will Sing For Lena?). This poignant theatre piece chronicles the true story of the first and only woman to be executed in the state of Georgia.

Friday, February 14, 2014 (VALENTINE’S DAY)

  • JULIETTE JEFFERS (ChocolateMatch.com) A woman shares her roller coaster journey with men as she explores online dating.
  • AMY MILANO (“Dancing With Crazies”). One woman's search for love and a place to call home.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

  • BARBARA COLE ("Surviving Chrysalis”). One woman reconciles aging, motherhood, and career with her journey toward self-actualization.
  • KIHA S. LEE (“The Red Ribbon”). The work deals with the realities of human nature. It reflects a woman’s experiences as a female, as an Asian living in a culturally-diverse society.
  • KAREN A. CLARK ("The Women"). Karen A., through music, poetry and storytelling reflects on the women in her family, and particularly her mother who provided a "wow" factor.

Sunday, February 16. 2014

  • CHRYSTEE PHARRIS(“In Search of O"). Storyteller Chrystee Pharris asks the question: What do you do at the age of 32 after reading every book, asking all the experts, and you still haven't found your O?"
  • CECE ANTOINETTE (“Watermelon: Git It While Its Hot”). This coming of age and rites of passage journey looks at one woman's life growing up Black, female and spiritual in Dallas, Texas

Weekend #3- February 21 - 23, 2014 . Theme: “Still Standing”

  • KIM COLES (“Oh, But Wait, There’s More!”) This zany and at times irreverent solo show chronicles the ebb and flow of Kim’s show biz career with titillating inside Hollywood anecdotes and personal stories from her amazing world. (Ms. Coles is well-known as a TV star, with series regular roles on “Living Single,” “In Living Color,” “The Geena Davis Show,” and much more.)

“From the Best of the Fest,” is taking place February 6 - 23, Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 3:00 p.m., at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave. (at El Centro), South Pasadena, CA 91030. Free parking behind theatre. For tickets: (866) 811-4111; www.fremontcentretheatre.com. For more info see: www.sariyah-idan.com.

The 21st Annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival will take place at the Electric Lodge in Venice beginning March 27, 2014. For more information on the Festival, please call (818) 760-0408. For more info see: http://lawtf.com/.

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell

Ed Rampell co-authored the recently published “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” (see: http://hawaiimtvbook.weebly.com/). Rampell’s interview with novelist Joyce Carol Oates is headlined on the cover of the February issue of The Progressive Magazine.