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Play wrestles with sociopolitical tension of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

One-man show ‘Wrestling Jerusalem’ aims to engage students in greater global perspective

Following the footsteps of one man as he investigates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Aaron Davidman will perform as the solo actor in his self-written play “Wrestling Jerusalem.” The performance will make a pit stop at AS220 in Providence Tuesday as part of a nationwide tour, addressing the complex nature of social justice and identity in the context of history.

While the play has only one actor, audience members will see multiple personalities depicted on stage as Davidman performs. “By transforming into the people that I meet (on my journey), I can best understand them,” Davidman said.

Davidman believes many people today have trouble learning about and understanding people from different backgrounds. “I demonstrate one person holding all the perspectives to show that we can go beyond the polemic in this conflict and in conflict in general,” he said. “We’re all wrestling.”

Davidman’s use of the solo performance style to tell his story is only one of many reasons that the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies chose to include “Wrestling Jerusalem” in its program of events this semester, said Marcus Gardley, assistant professor of TAPS. Many theater students must do a solo show at some point in their career, and bringing an artist to campus who does solo work gives them the chance to converse with an expert, he said.

Each year, TAPS highlights a particular educational experience through the performances it offers, Gardley said.  This year, the department is attempting to be more diverse and to give students a broader, more global perspective, he said. Davidman’s play “aligns with the notion of subject matter that is difficult to approach but important to discuss,” Gardley added.

The TAPS department also took into account President Christina Paxson’s P’19 Transformative Conversations initiative when selecting plays for this year, said Paul Margrave MFA’14, marketing and box office coordinator for TAPS. Theater can facilitate these conversations by providing a safer, more open space to explore profound questions, he said, adding that “theater literally gives the space to play.”

Immediately after Tuesday’s performance, Gardley will facilitate a discussion between Davidman and Brown students. The discussion will start with attendees expressing their initial reactions to the show and transition into a question-and-answer session, Gardley said. In the past, such discussions after performances have been very successful in facilitating meaningful conversation, he added. Gardley said he hopes the additional interaction with Davidman will give students a greater understanding of their global responsibility after watching the performance.

Davidman will lead a separate workshop Wednesday for TAPS students titled “The Personal and the Political.” The workshop will invite students to explore their personal stories of political and social tension and transform them into theater pieces. Gardley said he hopes the workshop will help students “take their craft and be artists and activists.”

Just as Davidman embodies many personalities on stage in “Wrestling Jerusalem,” so he involves himself in many aspects of show business — acting, directing, writing and producing. Though he began acting before he started writing, Davidman said he does not have a preference for one role over the other. “I’m a storyteller,” he said, adding that each of his jobs lets him tell a story from a different perspective. Davidman said he tailors his involvement to how he can best make an impact, given the material and the project.

After Tuesday’s performance, Davidman said he hopes attendees “walk away with more of an open heart and generosity for people living with the (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict.

“Wrestling Jerusalem” will start at 7 p.m. in AS220’s Black Box Theatre. The discussion to follow will be held in the same space immediately following the performance.


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