Stage Door News
Stratford: The English-language premiere of “Birds of a Kind” by Wajdi Mouawad opens August 14
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Birds of a Kind, Wajdi Mouawad’s award-winning play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is now in previews before its official English-language première on Wednesday, August 14, at the Festival’s Studio Theatre. This gripping production is directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino who brought the book that inspired the play to Mouawad.
“This production of Birds of a Kind is the culmination of a complex migratory journey that led to this extraordinary work,” says Cimolino.
Cimolino has built the 2019 playbill around the theme of “Breaking Boundaries,” looking at the lines that define us – and what happens when we cross them. The seed of this theme was planted in his mind more than a decade ago, when he brought Trickster Travels, by Holberg Prize-winning author and historian Natalie Zemon Davis, to the attention of renowned Lebanese-Canadian playwright Mouawad as a possible project for the Festival. The book’s story of a 16th-century Ottoman diplomat inspired Mouawad to write a play about a modern Israeli family. The resultant work, Birds of a Kind, premièred in Paris last fall (as Tous des oiseaux) where it took home the prestigious Grand Prix de la Critique. That production received its North American première this past spring at Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques, followed by a short run at the Carrefour international de théâtre in Quebec City in June.
The Festival’s production marks the world première of Linda Gaboriau’s English translation. Weaving together multiple languages (using surtitles) and divergent worlds of experience, this powerful contemporary drama raises profound questions about the role of fate in our lives, and about the ambivalent nature of identity.
“Wajdi writes often in this play of an individual’s mother tongue,” says Cimolino. “Perhaps for all creatures this is the single strongest source of identity: the call of our mother. Respecting the vital importance of the mother tongue, this Stratford Festival production – like the original in Paris – is performed in multiple languages: German, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The play was developed with the contribution of artists from all over the world, especially Palestinians and Israelis. Its many languages, each unique, bring nuance and richness of texture to the piece. Yet – paradoxically, perhaps – this diversity also brings clarity. So too does the historical perspective provided by Natalie in her story of the Trickster who lives happily among different cultures, religions and worlds.”
Set in present-day New York and Jerusalem, the play follows a German/Israeli family riven by conflict when the geneticist son, Eitan, falls in love with Wahida, an Arab-American woman. After Eitan’s parents, especially his devout father, David, react with shock and rage at their plans to marry, the young lovers travel together to Israel to meet Eitan’s estranged grandmother, who holds the key to a long-buried family secret. Upon their arrival, Eitan is injured in a bomb attack, leaving Wahida to uncover the shattering truth. It proves more devastating to David than anyone could have anticipated – and it also has a profound effect on Wahida, one that will dramatically change the course of her life.
The cast features Jakob Ehman as Eitan, Deb Filler as Leah, Alon Nashman as David, Harry Nelken as Etgar, Sarah Orenstein as Norah, Baraka Rahmani as Wahida and Hannah Miller as Eden.
Artistic credits include Designer Francesca Callow, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Projection Designer Jamie Nesbitt, Composer Levon Ichkhanian, Sound Designer Adam Harendorf, Dramaturge Bob White and Intimacy Coach Anita Nittoly.
Antoni Cimolino, Linda Gaboriau and Natalie Zemon Davis will reunite next month for a special event at The Meighen Forum called Adaptation & Inspiration (August 14), in which they will discuss the evolution of Birds of a Kind.
In September, the Forum will also welcome a panel of guests to discuss the continued importance of faith in an increasingly secular world. Reconciling Religion (September 25) will feature David Seljak, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Waterloo, and Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies, McGill University, with journalist and documentarian Karin Wells serving as moderator.
For tickets and a full list of the Forum events offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit: www.stratfordfestival.ca.
BIRDS OF A KIND
By Wajdi Mouawad
English Translation by Linda Gaboriau
English Language Première
July 30 to October 13; opens Wednesday, August 14
Studio Theatre, 34 George Street East, Stratford, Ontario
Tickets: $35 to $150
Box office: 1-800-567-1600
The Stratford Festival’s 2019 season runs until November 10, featuring Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VIII, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Private Lives, The Neverending Story, Mother’s Daughter,Nathan the Wise, The Front Page, The Crucible and Birds of a Kind.
Photo: Farhang Ghajar. © 2018 David Cooper.