Saturday, November 27 2021

The theater has, since its creation, taken the responsibility of reflecting on the lived realities and the stories of the people. However, its function is not limited to artistic expression. The theatrical pursuit also aims to educate. Dirty Laundry Theater, and its play “Borders,” embarked on a similar venture in conjunction with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville this fall.

Through his portrayal of two gay men searching for connection on Grindr in present-day Israel and Lebanon, DLT’s Borders explores several themes such as connection on a virtual platform and life in the world. Middle East. From there begins a complex story of finding love as the two navigate their conflicting realities. The lives of members of the LGBTQ + community, the nuances of Arab-Israeli identity and relations form the complex web of subjects addressed by the play.

In this unique project, DLT also serves as an advisor for the creation of semester content for UTK students. Maera Daniel Hagage, artistic director of DLT, is the spearhead of this initiative. In addition to using the content as an educational tool, while designing the educational content around DLT’s production of “Borders”, Hagage also wanted the content to bring to the fore unknown cultural angles of the Middle East.

“Students can explore and find out what the ‘real people’ who live in the area are like and how similar these people really are to the students themselves,” says Hagage.

Professor Drew Paul and Revital Ganzi, the Arabic and Hebrew program managers at UTK’s Department of Modern Foreign Languages ​​and Literatures, are DLT’s partners in this educational collaboration. With this partnership, says Professor Paul, he wants to expose students to under-represented perspectives on the Middle East as they study the region from multiple perspectives.

Ganzi, who leads courses on Hebrew and Contemporary Israeli Society and Culture at UTK, noted DLT’s contribution to academic content beyond the play. DLT provides numerous resources for students, including references, relevant images, videos, shared experiences and expertise, and research support for students.

“The collaboration with Maera [Hagage] and DLT allowed my students to peek through the most authentic window of Israeli culture, ”Ganzi says.

As part of the joint effort, the two organizations will come together for a hybrid staging (virtual and in person) of Borders on November 18.

‘Borders’ director Michael R. Piazza- director and drama teacher, who has taught colleges like NYU and Mount Saint Vincent College and New York public school students for over 15 years, se will join an hour-long panel and Q&A with the play’s producer, Hagage, and experts on LGBTQ + life in the Middle East – Barış Ünsal and Je’jae Cleopatra.

The expert panel will discuss and answer questions on these topics – sharing their own perspectives and experiences of working with people from the LGBTQ + community in the Middle East.

Ünsal, a Turkish psychotherapist based in New York City, works with the global LGBTQ + community. When a large population fled war-torn Syria to seek refuge in Turkey, Ünsal began working with LGBTQ + refugees with an emphasis on the intersection of culture and sexual orientation / gender identity. in Turkey. Today, in addition to being a psychotherapist and a member of New York’s LGBTQ community, she also conducts research on suicidal ideation among transgender youth.

Currently, she is working on a podcast on psychoanalytic thinking and its clinical implementation in the Queer community.

Je’jae Cleopatra (often referred to as Mx. Enigma) has been a New York artist and organizer for 15 years. They identify as a non-binary, queer, disabled Jew of color. Of Mizrahi / Palestinian descent, Je’jae Cleopatra is an award-winning international filmmaker and speaker. They also host an award-winning talk show, “Queer Justice,” on MNN TV. They lead five self-help organizations with the goal of creating a community-based economy that helps LGBTQ + members and their allies – especially people of color – advance their careers in tech, media, arts and journalism. They are working on the production of a magazine showcasing the creative work that represents trans voices of color and queer asylum seekers / dreamers in MENA and SQMN.

Ünsal and Je’jae Cleopatra will take the stage with Piazza, the director of DLT’s Hagage and Borders, on November 18, 2021.

This event marks the start of what is meant to be a long and successful relationship between DLT and university communities nationwide.

To learn more about the play and to contact Dirty Laundry Theater: https://www.dirtylaundrytheatre.org/show/borders/


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