Week 2: Embodying Solidarity
Pangea World Theater has long stood in solidarity with the Arab and Muslim Diasporas in the Twin Cities and beyond, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Islamophobic backlash and endless wars that followed (and continue to this day).
We remain committed to collaborating with artists and thinkers that challenge stereotypes and discrimination, and whose work illuminates the rich and diverse history of the Arab and Islamic world through a decolonial lens. In addition to journeying hand in hand with a wide array of individual creators from around the country and the world, Pangea has cultivated longstanding partnerships with organizations such as Mizna,
New Arab American Theater Works and with the Twin Cities’ vibrant Somali and
South Asian Muslim communities.
"From the inception, Pangea has been a space that has not only welcomed Arab artists, but has made it clear that our work is a part of the mission and center. Pangea has supported us when few other organizations have even acknowledged our histories, art, politics and vision. From panels, to workshops, to plays, to common spaces for our own community organizing, Pangea has consistently produced, presented, supported and been a part of Arab American work. The national Arab American arts community has become richer because of Pangea's presence and commitment to uplifting, validating, and producing our art. As for me personally, as one of the cofounders of Pangea, an artist, a friend, and a collaborator since the very first spark of an idea of Pangea, it has been a life line to know that there is a space and a group of people that would ALWAYS be there to say my voice matters, and deserves to exist, and our stories need to be seen." -Kathy Haddad, Artistic and Executive Director of New Arab American Theater Works
"The first play I saw with Arab American characters at Pangea was nearly 20 years ago.... to see something about people more like you, a closer reflection of the reality you live, and for it to be funny, it is liberating: it gives you just a second longer so you can stop holding your breath and breathe. Because those people onstage sound like me, look more like me, and think kind of like me... a reminder to a kid, there is nothing wrong with me... " -Jawdy Obeid, Pangea World Theater Board Member
Here are just a few of the plays and projects Pangea has presented and/or produced over the years:
Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior (2011) by Kathy Haddad, tells the story of Arab American school teacher sent to an internment camp along with other Arab and Muslim women. Haddad envisions a not so far-fetched future in which Arabs and Muslims are officially enemies of the state.
Conference of the Birds (1996, 2009, 2016) was adapted for the stage by Meena Natarajan. In this classic tale, based on the epic Persian poem by the Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar, the birds of the world take flight on a pilgrimage to find their celebrated king, but the dangers and hardships encountered along the way cause many in the flock to abandon their search. In the end the small number of birds that survive uncover a profound secret.
Turbulence (2018) by Willie Nour, takes us into the life of flight attendant Alex Khoury, a Palestinian who left Israel to escape discrimination, mistrust, and a second-class existence there, only to find that he continues to be the target of such treatment, even in his newly adopted home in the U.S. and 30,000 feet above it.
Truth Serum Blues (2005) by Ismail Khalidi and Bassam Jarbawi is a poetic fever dream about a Palestinian-American trapped in Guantanamo Bay. Named “Best Solo Performance” of 2005 by Lavender Magazine, Truth Serum Blues goes to the heart of what it means to be a refugee, an immigrant, and a Muslim in a white supremacist settler colonial nation at the height of the global ‘war on terror’
Sabra Falling (2017) by Ismail Khalidi, takes audiences back to August 1982, to the Sabra refugee camp in war-torn Beirut. With the specter of a massacre looming, the ‘Akawi family receives an unexpected visitor that brings the past rushing back and alters the course of events to come.
Partitions and 5 Weeks (2002 & 2017), both by Meena Natarajan, examine the traumatic events of the partition of India by Colonial Britain in 1947. Natarajan’s epic history plays combine first-hand narratives and original music to tackle the sectarian violence that resulted from the brutal divide and rule tactics of the British, as well as the dangers of religious nationalism and Islamophobia in the subcontinent and beyond.
Please Don’t Feed the Children (2016), a play by Aamera Siddiqui, is the story of an American born oncologist of Pakistani descent who runs a charity with the purpose of bringing food and medical supplies to Iraqi children who are dying at devastating rates of starvation and illness because of US imposed sanctions.
Lake Street Arts! is a multidisciplinary, multi-year initiative to create art with the many immigrant communities of the Lake Street corridor. Many events since LSA’s beginnings have been held with Lake Street’s Somali community.
“This is not only about politics and tactics, and how you deal with tear gas, and how you do organization of boycotts and nonviolent resistance. It’s also about illuminating people’s minds. And for that, I think places like Pangea, and the arts generally, arts, culture, literature, theater, film are absolutely essential. If people don’t come to understand how you do these things in terms of liberating people, rather than through political strictures on them, we won’t come to a positive end. It requires the kind of humanistic, open understanding that really only the arts can give us. That’s why what Pangea does is so important, that’s why I was honored to be part of your celebration.”
-Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and longtime friend of Pangea