Particularly noteworthy are "Have a Reason, Have a Faith," a song by Nenad Bach; and "Unseen," a beautiful veil dance performed by Kristi Little.
The cast of Same Difference
Reviewed By: Brooke Pierce
Same Difference: NYC Faith Stories in Words, Music, & Dance is a performance piece put together by an interfaith collective seeking to find common ground between people of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religions. It's a crucial time for these "People of the Book"; in the aftermath of September 11, the need for understanding is greater than ever. Knowing this, the artists behind Same Difference (many of whom were involved in a similar earlier project entitled Sept. 11: In Our Own Words) interviewed over 100 New York City residents, each representing -- to one degree or another -- one of the three faiths. Thoughts and stories from these interviews have been woven together to simulate a kind of onstage dialogue. Accompanied by live musicians and singers, the piece is rounded out by a handful of songs, dances, and photo/video footage.
Although Same Difference could be counted as another installment in the increasingly popular genre of "documentary theater," it is not nearly as slick as some of its forebears, such as The Laramie Project or The Exonerated. Performed at the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, where it was first conceived, Same Difference is more reminiscent of a lively church theatrical, with all of the good intentions and mixed results that such an enterprise usually entails.
Each of the dozen or so principle actors in the piece takes on several personae, but there is little attention to detail as far as the "characters" are concerned; director Sarah Brockus's aim seems to be to focus on the words themselves rather than the distinct personalities of the individuals interviewed. Some of the actors succeed better than others in making particular characters stand out -- e.g., a devout young Muslim woman and an interfaith couple. Unfortunately it's difficult to single out the actors by name since they are credited only as "Man 1," "Woman 2," etc.
For the bulk of the play, the presentation style is very relaxed as the characters share their feelings, anecdotes, and ideas on such topics as religion and food, interfaith relationships, and tradition. Though Brockus's direction is a little clumsy at times and some of the performers are unpolished, this freewheeling discussion format is a refreshing and entertaining approach. The music and dance
elements of the piece are not as seamlessly integrated as one might hope, but it is nice to see artistic responses to these subjects. Particularly noteworthy are "Have a Reason, Have a Faith," a song by Nenad Bach; and "Unseen," a beautiful veil dance performed by Kristi Little.
Eventually, and inevitably, the focus of the piece turns to September 11 and Jewish-Muslim relations, at which point the show's lightheartedness disappears. Early in the proceedings, many of the interviewees appear comfortable, even enthusiastic, about living in
an interfaith community; in the face of difficult questions concerning Israel and Palestine, however, that easygoing tolerance fades away and people start falling into two groups, each one accusing the other. (This divide is also illustrated through Jill Jaffe's dance
piece "The Battle.") The most provocative aspect of Same Difference is that it dares you to agree wholly with any of the opinions it presents. At one moment, a pro-Israel man makes a very good point -- and then a Palestinian woman offers a heartfelt rebuttal. The challenge is to open your mind and understand both sides.
Near the end of the piece, one man admits that interfaith communication may have finally broken down. After hearing the barrage of insults, accusations, and excuses that these seemingly tolerant people begin hurling at each other, it's tempting to agree. But, obviously, the very existence of this piece -- which was created with the support of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, and the American Sufi Muslim Association, among other organizations -- proves that the faithful of New York City are still aching to reach out to one another. If Same Difference lacks a certain theatrical eloquence, it is nonetheless a meaningful and enlightening expression of that desire.
Please help spread the word about tonight's Cinewomen screening of our short documentary demo of SAME DIFFERENCE
(Tues., 11/30/04). The price of admission includes three films plus free beer & pizza. Details are below. I'll be speaking on a really
short panel (@one question each) afterwards. Thanks for your help.
Much love, Eileen www.samedifference.org
Cinewomen NY Screening Series www.cinewomenny.org
at 2 Boots Pioneer Theatre, 155 East 3rd St. (off A) www.twoboots.com
TIES THAT BIND: The Religion of Family - Nov 30th 2004 at TWO BOOTS
[Dir Joe Dorman and Sarah Brockus 15 mins]
[Co-Producer/Writer Eileen Weiss]
New York City faith stories in words, music and dance. A powerful work which combines original music, dance and drama was
created from interviews with over a hundred New Yorkers about their faith, anger, fears and hopes before and after 9/11. A joint
venture by an interfaith group of artists.
We Are The Littletons
[Penny Lane, experimental, 11 min]
A tangled web of found objects, intercepted correspondences, reenactments and total fabrications centered around Eve Portian
Littleton Rodriguez, an artist with "movie star good looks" who mysteriously banished from her post-card perfect American family.
[Susan Hamovitch, documentary 75 min]
The story of the filmmaker's family's 'dark secret' -- her brother Alan, born with a disability so severe he would never learn to speak.
Institutionalized in 1958, a taboo family topic for more than thirty years, Alan is only now -- after the expose of his state-run facility,
the radical overhaul of medical thought on retardation and autism -- emerging as a member of his family and of the world.
Cinewomen NY Screening Series
at Pioneer Theatre, 155 East 3rd St. (off A)
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Box Office Opens: 6:30PM
Screening with Q&A: 7:00 - 9:00PM
Free Beer/Pizza Party: 9:00 - 10:00PM