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The Sixth annual Arabic Language Monodrama Festival provides a rare opportunity for the Hebrew-speaking audience to sample Arab culture. The second day of the event, which runs Tuesday through Friday at the Acre Theater Center, will feature Hebrew versions of a number of festival productions.
"We wanted Jews to encounter Arab creativity," says co-producer Shirley Ron. "Much of the subject matter raised is relevant regardless of race or religion."
Despite this potential for common ground, Ron rejects the notion that the festival seeks to promote coexistence through culture. Coexistence schemes, she maintains, are less pertinent in Acre and the Galilee than in other parts of the country.
"In Acre coexistence is a way of life, a philosophy which is embodied at our theater, where Jews and Arabs work together on a daily basis."
Although it lacks a political agenda, many of the festival's productions explore political issues as reflected in the organizer's choice of theme; the return to truth. "Through exploring political concerns, these productions touch upon basic human values or 'truths' which are often bypassed as a result of the conflict and need to be re-examined," says Ron.
Among such productions appearing in Hebrew are Jason Zakton's A Clear Sky in which a Palestinian woman recalls her life as a refugee; Names, a metaphorical tale of the history and heritage of the Palestinian people, represented by a nameless man's journey to discover his identity; and IBA TV producer Arie Yass's version of the late S Yizahar's classic moral critique The Prisoner, featuring Druse actor Nahd Basher.
Based on Yizhar's experience as a witness to the capture of an innocent Arab shepherd by a group of young Jewish snipers during the War of Independence, it addresses the treatment of prisoners of war. The narrator of the piece grapples with the possibility of simply letting the youth go.
"I chose The Prisoner because of its universal moral message as well as its particular relevance today regarding both the missing Jewish soldiers and the Arab prisoners being held indefinitely in Israeli jails," explains Yass.
Communal concerns also feature prominently in a number of the performances which, according to Ron, act as a form of social self -assessment.
"Every society should evaluate its strengths and areas for improvement... that's a sign it's healthy," she says. "As a result of their displacement, this is something that is often bypassed in Israeli-Arab/Palestinian society. These plays attempt to re-alert them to issues within their society which must be addressed."
One such performance which will feature in Hebrew is Durgam Juam's The Goal Keeper, a criticism of the clan-like mentality characteristic of many Arab communities. In it, a talented young goal keeper with the potential to return honor to his village's ailing soccer team is prevented from playing because his family's social standing is not deemed high enough.
Other Hebrew options include The Human Voice, the life story of iconic French singer Edith Piaf, and Survival, which portrays notorious underworld figures, as well as an adaptation of King Lear.
Those looking for a lighter option can enjoy acrobatic spectacles and colorful dance routines from the Palestinian-Israeli Dachka circus, a company that seeks to promote mutual understanding through humor.
For more information call (04) 991-4222 or visit www.acco.tc.com