♦ Logo design for the Benghazi-Bergen-Belsen production, scheduled to debut in NYC in early 2017.
♦ Client: No Visa Productions, NYC
Benghazi – Bergen-Belsen Project summary
https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/sUZ_KeV_k30?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen
Benghazi – Bergen-Belsen is an original play loosely inspired by a novel of the same name. Tracing the story of the holocaust of the Jews of Libya, the play gives voice to a larger cultural narrative that is conspicuously absent from prevalent stories of the Jewish holocaust. By citing the marginalized racial politics of the holocaust, the show urges a reconsidering of both historical and contemporary religious, cultural, and racial oppression and violence.
Set in 1945, Benghazi – Bergen-Belsen is narrated in the voice of Silvana Hajaj, an ambitious young Jewish feminist from Benghazi, Libya. Silvana and her family are uprooted from their home and sent to the concentration camp Bergen- Belsen in Germany. Here, Silvana meets a young Dutch Jew, Rebecca Reis and the play tracks their encounter which is layered with cultural and sexual tensions.
Silvana and Rebecca are held in a shack in the concentration camp after being caught stealing water. In this confined space, they must decide which one of them shall be executed within the hour. As time runs out, Silvana is focused on the burning question of who is to live. But Rebecca has a different wish—she insists that Silvana tell her a story. Silvana painfully recounts the story of her and her family’s journey from Benghazi, on the coast of Libya, to the capital, Tripoli, from there by boat to Civitella del Tronto, an ancient castle serving as a prisoner-of-war camp in the Italian mountains, and from there to the frigid Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
The arc of Benghazi – Bergen-Belsen rests on the fierce tensions between Silvana and Rebecca, Libya and Europe, between imprisonment and infinite freedom. The constant shifting of time, between the story of the journey and the confines of the shack where the two women are trapped, and the growing tension between Silvana and Rebecca culminates in a compelling experience, intricate and laden with lust, dreams, fears, and questions of femininity.
Although the play is set over 70 years ago, the performance is rendered in a contemporary aesthetic. The story of Libyan and other non-white Jewish communities continues to be ignored in the present day. Underscoring the contemporary urgency of the story, the play features both historical and present-day images of New York, Europe, Syria, Africa, and the Middle East. Rather than reconstruct the past, the scenic and costume design express contemporary society’s continuing role in a long tradition of cultural repression and oppression.
As opposed to telling the story in a single language and uncontested voice, this performance literally speaks in several languages: Arabic, Italian, Hebrew, German, Dutch and English. The characters speak their local language, offering a multiplicity of cultural and individual inflections and perspectives on the same historical phenomenon. An elderly woman will sit at the corner of the stage throughout the performance and translate the myriad of languages for the audience. This translation will be uninflected and non-idiomatic until the peak of the narrative, when the old woman rises to join a dance on stage.