Arab-Israeli-American cast cooperate in drama urging peace in the Middle East A WORLD OF ARTS IN COLUMBIA

THE BALTIMORE SUN

TC The Columbia Festival of the Arts, which last year drew better than 30,000 people to more than 60 events, is back for its third season beginning Thursday night when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, right, performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Over the following 10 days, festivalgoers can partake of visual arts exhibits, free entertainment at the Columbia lakefront, workshops and master classes and an array of performances by such world-class organizations as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Garth Fagan Dance and our own Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

For a complete schedule, see page 3M.

It's probably the only professional theater company in which Arabs, Israelis and Americans work side by side. The combination may sound combustible, but the thesis that's set forth by VOICETheatre's production of "Pushing Through" is that peace can be achieved through cooperation.

And, the very creation of "Pushing Through" suggests this goal is possible. Described by its author and director, Shauna Kanter, as a collage of voice, movement and dramatic scenes, the five-woman play will make its Maryland debut Saturday and next Sunday at the Columbia Festival of the Arts, an 11-day smorgasbord of music, dance, theater and visual art (see accompanying schedule). Sunday's performance will be followed by a symposium conducted by the Dialogue Project of American Jewish and Palestinian Women.

"When I go to rehearsal, I'm not thinking about the way nations interact, but basically, if there's going to be peace in the world, it's not going to happen with politics, it's going to happen on a grass-roots level, person to person," says Ms. Kanter, a voice coach and former actress who is also artistic director of the New York-based VOICETheatre (formerly known as Voiceworks!).

"Basically, we're dealing with two issues here," she says. "How do you make a play, and how do you get people who are taught to hate each other to love each other? It's a very hard matchmaking business."

Ms. Kanter, however, is apparently a skilled matchmaker. In the three years since she conceived "Pushing Through," she has collaborated with actors of numerous nationalities, beginning with 30 French actors who participated in three months of workshops commissioned by an agency of the French government in 1988.

Initially, she explains, the piece was about the more general subject of oppression, although Palestinean characters always figured prominently. She narrowed the focus to the Arab-Israeli conflict after reading a book titled, "O Jerusalem," by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.

The decision to use an all-female cast came about because Ms. Kanter wanted the play to be "more about peace. . . . I felt an all-female cast would be able to achieve that. I wanted to strip away as much politics as possible, as much blame as possible."

At the same time, she realized "that for the credibility of the piece, there needed to be at least one Arab actress and one Israeli. I just felt that as a company, at least two people would need to push through the stereotypes and fears." As its title suggests, "pushing through" stereotypes and fears is what the play is all about.

Jackie Sawiris, the show's Arab actress, is an American citizen who grew up in Towson, though she was born in Libya of a Jordanian mother and Egyptian father. She portrays a Palestinean in most of the scenes, but the play also requires her to occasionally appear as an Israeli, a shift she says she had no trouble making. "The whole show is such an emotional roller coaster, and the same emotions really course through my veins -- the fear and hatred and anger."

Furthermore, Ms. Sawiris points out, in portraying women of both nationalities, she is also demonstrating one of the themes of the piece. "The best anyone can get from seeing the show is to see how alike we are, how alike people really are," she explains.

This doesn't mean there has never been dissension within the VOICETheatre company. Although Ms. Kanter says the current troupe is almost always in agreement, last year there was an Israeli actress, no longer in the company, who had great difficulty delivering a monologue spoken by a Palestinean character.

Similarly, Ms. Sawiris, who joined VOICETheatre a year ago, says that when rehearsals began for this summer's performances, she felt the work had taken on a pro-Israeli slant. "I said, 'I can't do this,' " she recalls. After she expressed her concerns to Ms. Kanter, changes were made to restore the balance, and, Ms. Sawiris says, "We worked it out."

Changes have also been made to reflect the recent Persian Gulwar. For example, there's a new scene about a sealed room, based on experiences related by the sisters of the company's Israeli actress.

VOICETheatre had its first run-in with external dissension only few weeks ago. An engagement at the Jewish Community Center in Rochester, N.Y., was canceled before anyone in authority had seen the show or read the script, according to Ms. Kanter. "This is the kind of fear that has to be pushed through," she says.

Donald Hicken, the Columbia Festival's artistic director, has seen the play and was concerned enough about potential controversy to discuss it not only with his staff, but also with the festival board. "Actually," he says, "the community has been very receptive." However, he acknowledges, "When one does a play that is over an intensely emotional issue, you're going to get people who have strong feelings one way or the other."

With that in mind, "Pushing Through" seemed a logical forum for next Sunday's post-performance symposium. "It's not a political debate; it's a chance for people to feed back on the play," Mr. Hicken explains.

The Dialogue Project Between American Jewish and Palestinean Women, the Washington-based organization conducting the symposium, was created in 1989 by "women leaders from both communities who decided they wanted to begin a series of discussions with each other. Their overall purpose is to support the peace process and to come to understand each other through their discussions," says Reena Bernards, one of the group's founders and coordinators.

"Pushing Through" spontaneously spurred the creation of a smaller but similar discussion group last December when it was performed in New Paltz, N.Y. Although nothing was planned following the performance, Ms. Kanter recalls, "The entire audience stayed in the theater. . . . The musicians started to play, and then the audience started to dance, and after that the Palestineans in the audience and a couple people who were Jewish leaders in the community decided to form a dialogue group in New Paltz."

In other words, after seeing "Pushing Through" -- which Ms. Sawiris describes as a "pro-communication" play -- audience members were inspired to practice at least part of what it preaches.

Ms. Kanter was understandably pleased. "If people could let go of their fears and place themselves in the other person's position, if they could do just that for an hour, that would be enough," she says.

Ailey performance free to students

Children and full-time students with ID will be admitted free with a paying adult to Thursday's 8 p.m. performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The performance, which kicks off the Columbia Festival of the Arts, will include the Ailey company's signature piece, "Revelations." Tickets are $27.50 and are available at Ticketron outlets or by calling 481-6000.

COLUMBIA FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS SCHEDULE

All events are free unless otherwise noted. Tickets are needed for open rehearsals, master classes, seminars, workshops, symposia and lecture-demonstrations. For tickets and more information, call 381-0545 (TDD number 251-4030.)

% THURSDAY, JUNE 27 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Merriweather Post Pavilionp.m. Tickets: $27.50.

# FRIDAY, JUNE 28 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, master class. SlaytoHouse. 10 a.m.

Choreographers Seminar with Judith Jamison. Howard CountCenter for the Arts. Noon.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, open rehearsal. SmitTheater, Howard Community College. 2 p.m. Tickets: $5.

Artisans Exhibition. 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Columbia Pro Cantare. Hammond High School. 8 p.m. Tickets$15; $7 students.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Smith Theatre. 8 p.mTickets: $16; $8 students.

% SATURDAY, JUNE 29

Mum Puppettheatre, master class. Slayton House. 10 a.m.

Artisans Exhibition. Noon to 10:30 p.m.

Mum Puppettheatre: "A Boy, A Dog, A Dinosaur." Wilde LakHigh School. 2 p.m. Tickets: $7.

VOICETheatre: "Pushing Through." Slayton House. 8 p.mTickets: $15; $8 students.

Bolcom & Morris. Smith Theatre. 8 p.m. Tickets: $17.50; $students.

# SUNDAY, JUNE 30

Artisans Exhibition 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

VOICETheatre: "Pushing Through." Slayton House. 2 p.mTickets: $15; $8 students.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, open rehearsal. SmitTheater. 2 p.m. Tickets: $5.

VOICETheatre: "The Dialogue Project: Middle East Peace.Symposium. Slayton House. 4 p.m.

Mum Puppettheatre: "From the Ashes" (followed by an informaQ&A; session.) Wilde Lake High School. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $12; $6 students.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Smith Theater. 7:3p.m. Tickets: $16; $8 students.

' MONDAY, JULY 1

Shakespeare/Oxford Symposium. Smith Theater. 6:30 p.m.

Kinetics Junior Company, "All that Dancelecture-demonstration. Wilde Lake High School. 7 p.m.

Table Reading: "All the Queen's Men," by John Nassiver(dramatic approach to the Shakespeare "authorship question"). Smith Theater. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10; $5 students.

TUESDAY, JULY 2 Kinetics Dance Theatre, open rehearsal. Wilde Lake High School. p.m. Tickets: $10; students $5.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, open rehearsal. Oakland. 6 p.m. Tickets: $5.

PD Pocket Opera Players. Oakland. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10; $5 students.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 3 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, open rehearsal. Smith Theater. 2 p.m. Tickets: $5.

Kinetics Dance Theatre: "The Jazz Wheel." Wilde Lake High School. 7:30 p.m.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Smith Theater. 8 p.m. Tickets: $16; $8 students.

$ THURSDAY, JULY 4 Fourth of July Gala. Featuring open bar, dinner, dancing. The Spear Center. 7 p.m. to midnight. Tickets: $50, includes VIP parking.

' FRIDAY, JULY 5

Garth Fagan, master classes. Slayton House. Noon.

Garth Fagan, lecture-demonstration. Slayton House. 3 p.m.

Shakespeare on Wheels: "The Tempest." Howard Community College. 7:30 p.m.

L Tom Paxton. Smith Theater. 8 p.m. Tickets: $12; $6 students.

Capitol Steps. Columbia Inn. 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $15.

SATURDAY, JULY 6 "Creating Images of African Art" children's workshop. Maryland Museum of African Art, Oakland. 10 a.m. $3 materials charge.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, open rehearsal. Smith Theater. 2 p.m. Tickets: $5.

Shakespeare on Wheels: "The Tempest." Howard Community College. 7:30 p.m.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Smith Theater. 8 p.m. Tickets: $16; $8 students.

Garth Fagan Dance. Wilde Lake High School. 8 p.m. Tickets: $16; $8 students.

' SUNDAY, JULY 7 Garth Fagan Dance. Wilde Lake High School. 2 p.m. Tickets: $8 students.

Community Arts Picnic, with Columbia Concert Band, Last Chance Jazz Band, Children's Art Project. Symphony Woods. 4 p.m.

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with David Zinman and James Galway. Merriweather Post Pavilion. 7 p.m. Tickets: $25, $20 reserved; $15 general admission; $9 lawn; students free.

VISUAL ARTS EXHIBITS Howard Community College Art Gallery. Stanley Wenocur. Landscapes -- oil, acrylic, collage, mixed media. Through July 7. Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Columbia Association Center for the Arts. M. E. Warren. "The Eye of the Beholder" -- photographs. Through July 7. Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Maryland Museum of African Art (Oakland). "Treasures of Africa: Art from the Embassies" and "Art Reflections of the Women of Africa." June 30 to Oct. 31. Hours: Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.

Slayton House. Anne de la Vergne Tefft and Liz Cotterell. "Color Magic" -- watercolor exhibit exploring feminine expression. Through July 8. Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Howard County Center for the Arts. Resident Artists Exhibit -- painting, drawing, weaving, printmaking, photography, fiber and mixed media. Through July 13. Hours: Mondays to Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

& LAKEFRONT PROGRAMS ZTC

The following events are free at Lake Kittamaqundi.

FRIDAY, JUNE 28

Volunteers (playing country-western, top 40), 6 p.m.

Jai Poong Ryu Dancers. 7:30 p.m.

Spiderwoman Theatre. 9 p.m.

D8 Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering. 10:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, JUNE 29

Mary Carter Smith, storyteller. 4 p.m.

Interact Story Theatre. 5:30 p.m.

Eva Anderson's Baltimore Dance Theatre. 6:30 p.m.

Annapolis Brass Quintet. 8 p.m.

Aleta Greene. 9:30 p.m.

# SUNDAY, JUNE 30

Annapolis Brass Quintet, children's program. 4:30 p.m.

The Dance Dimension. 6 p.m.

Judith Black, storyteller. 7:30 p.m.

' FRIDAY, JULY 5

Julian Fleisher, jazz vocalist. 8 p.m.

Shizumi Dance Theatre. 9 p.m.

Gary Bartz Quartet. 10 p.m.

$ SATURDAY, JULY 6

Jazz Ambassadors, 8 p.m.

Jon Spelman, storyteller. 9 p.m.

The Assassins, jazz. 10 p.m.

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