Arab-Israeli Cookbook Preview
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Discovering a balance

Production reveals both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict


By Laura Koenig | Echo

No, the actors are not going to cook for you, nor can you bribe them to let you eat the food they have on stage. Taylor Theatre’s first production of the 2015-2016 season, “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook,” is scheduled to show on September 25–27. Although the performers will not serve food to the audience, the food will serve as an intriguing metaphor.

“We all eat, wherever we are.” Director Jessica Rousselow said. “We might add different flavorings and spices so it comes out looking different, but it is a connection point.”

The play will present the Arab and Israeli people, and show a balanced perspective of the humanity of both sides of this overseas conflict. The production is a verbatim script from interviews of people in Israel and Palestine, that actor and playwright Robin Soans and his team compiled. These interviews were then molded into “The Arab-Israeli Cookbook.”

“(The author’s) goal is to give a voice to the voiceless,” Rousselow said. “Each character has some kind of story about what it is like to live in a divided country, under the constant threat of potential bombings, war activities and how to survive in that context.”

For the audience, this kind of daily life may be hard to fathom, but they will have a chance to catch a glimpse of a different lifestyle. “They have the opportunity to see these people as real people and understand that there isn’t really a distinction between victim and victimizer in this conflict,” Junior theatre cast member Jessica Schulte said, echoing the importance of the balanced point-of-view.

Schulte will play the part of a Russian Israeli Jew, named Vitya, who is the matriarch of a close knit family. She lived in fear of the violence around her. She experienced a bomb threat while at the grocery store, shopping for her food. Since grocery shopping is routine, normal tasks such as walking through the doors or pulling out a shopping cart might become triggers that are connected to her terrifying experience. Throughout these events, Vitya clinged to the constants of her faith and family.

These true stories may encourage the audience to take action or ask how they can make a difference in this war. “We can’t make a difference in the world if we don’t understand the world,” Rousselow said. The cast hopes to bring a little of this much needed understanding.

“The Arab-Israeli Cookbook” will show on Sept. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. and on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets at the door are $7. Talk-backs will be held following every show.


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