English language première: Birds of a Kind

Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino directs Linda Gaboriau’s new translation of Wajdi Mouawad’s award-winning play

JULY 30 TO OCTOBER 13; OPENS AUGUST 14 AT STUDIO THEATRE

Stratford, ON… Birds of a Kind, Wajdi Mouawad’s award-winning play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is now in previews before its official English-language première on Wednesday, August 14, at the Festival’s Studio Theatre. This gripping production is directed by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino who brought the book that inspired the play to Mouawad.

“This production of Birds of a Kind is the culmination of a complex migratory journey that led to this extraordinary work,” says Cimolino.

Cimolino has built the 2019 playbill around the theme of “Breaking Boundaries,” looking at the lines that define us – and what happens when we cross them. The seed of this theme was planted in his mind more than a decade ago, when he brought Trickster Travels, by Holberg Prize-winning author and historian Natalie Zemon Davis, to the attention of renowned Lebanese-Canadian playwright Mouawad as a possible project for the Festival. The book’s story of a 16th-century Ottoman diplomat inspired Mouawad to write a play about a modern Israeli family. The resultant work, Birds of a Kind, premièred in Paris last fall (as Tous des oiseaux) where it took home the prestigious Grand Prix de la Critique. That production received its North American première this past spring at Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques, followed by a short run at the Carrefour international de théâtre in Quebec City in June.

The Festival’s production marks the world première of Linda Gaboriau’s English translation. Weaving together multiple languages (using surtitles) and divergent worlds of experience, this powerful contemporary drama raises profound questions about the role of fate in our lives, and about the ambivalent nature of identity.

“Wajdi writes often in this play of an individual’s mother tongue,” says Cimolino. “Perhaps for all creatures this is the single strongest source of identity: the call of our mother. Respecting the vital importance of the mother tongue, this Stratford Festival production – like the original in Paris – is performed in multiple languages: German, Hebrew, Arabic and English. The play was developed with the contribution of artists from all over the world, especially Palestinians and Israelis. Its many languages, each unique, bring nuance and richness of texture to the piece. Yet – paradoxically, perhaps – this diversity also brings clarity. So too does the historical perspective provided by Natalie in her story of the Trickster who lives happily among different cultures, religions and worlds.”

Set in present-day New York and Jerusalem, the play follows a German/Israeli family riven by conflict when the geneticist son, Eitan, falls in love with Wahida, an Arab-American woman. After Eitan’s parents, especially his devout father, David, react with shock and rage at their plans to marry, the young lovers travel together to Israel to meet Eitan’s estranged grandmother, who holds the key to a long-buried family secret. Upon their arrival, Eitan is injured in a bomb attack, leaving Wahida to uncover the shattering truth. It proves more devastating to David than anyone could have anticipated – and it also has a profound effect on Wahida, one that will dramatically change the course of her life.

The cast features Jakob Ehman as Eitan, Deb Filler as Leah, Alon Nashman as David, Harry Nelken as Etgar, Sarah Orenstein as Norah, Baraka Rahmani as Wahida and Hannah Miller as Eden.

Artistic credits include Designer Francesca Callow, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Projection Designer Jamie Nesbitt, Composer Levon Ichkhanian, Sound Designer Adam Harendorf, Dramaturge Bob White and Intimacy Coach Anita Nittoly.

Antoni Cimolino, Linda Gaboriau and Natalie Zemon Davis will reunite next month for a special event at The Meighen Forum called Adaptation & Inspiration (August 14), in which they will discuss the evolution of Birds of a Kind.

In September, the Forum will also welcome a panel of guests to discuss the continued importance of faith in an increasingly secular world. Reconciling Religion (September 25) will feature David Seljak, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Waterloo, and Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies, McGill University, with journalist and documentarian Karin Wells serving as moderator.

For tickets and a full list of the Forum events offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit: stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/TheForum.

Support for The Meighen Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and The T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.

The Meighen Forum is funded in part by the Government of Ontario.

Support for the creation of Birds of a Kind was generously provided by The Foerster Bernstein New Play Development Program.

Production support is generously provided by Barbara & John Schubert, by Sylvia Soyka, and by Catherine & David Wilkes.

Support for the 2019 season of the Studio Theatre is generously provided by Sandra & Jim Pitblado.

BIRDS OF A KIND

By Wajdi Mouawad

English Translation by Linda Gaboriau

English Language Première

July 30 to October 13; opens Wednesday, August 14

Studio Theatre, 34 George Street East, Stratford, Ontario

Tickets: $35 to $150

stratfordfestival.ca

Box office: 1-800-567-1600

CAST (in alphabetical order)

Library Patron, Orderly……………………………………………….. Shelly Antony

Doctor………………………………………………………………………. Miranda Calderon

Eitan…………………………………………………………………………. Jakob Ehman

Leah………………………………………………………………………….. Deb Filler

Understudy……………………………………………………………….. Diane Flacks

Library Patron, Waiter…………………………………………………. Danny Ghantous

Library Patron, Rabbi………………………………………………….. Ron Kennell

Eden…………………………………………………………………………. Hannah Miller

David………………………………………………………………………… Alon Nashman

Etgar…………………………………………………………………………. Harry Nelken

Norah………………………………………………………………………… Sarah Orenstein

Wahida……………………………………………………………………… Baraka Rahmani

Understudy……………………………………………………………….. Stephen Russell

Library Patron, Nurse………………………………………………….. Oksana Sirju

Wazzan……………………………………………………………………… Aladeen Tawfeek

ARTISTIC CREDITS

Director…………………………………………………………………….. Antoni Cimolino

Designer……………………………………………………………………. Francesca Callow

Lighting Designer……………………………………………………….. Michael Walton

Projection Designer…………………………………………………….. Jamie Nesbitt

Composer………………………………………………………………….. Levon Ichkhanian

Sound Designer………………………………………………………….. Adam Harendorf

Dramaturge………………………………………………………………… Bob White

Intimacy Coach………………………………………………………….. Anita Nittoly

Language Coaches……………………………………………………… Jewels Krauss, Hannah Miller,

Aladeen Tawfeek

Arabic Translation………………………………………………………. Jalal Altawil

Hebrew Translation…………………………………………………….. Eli Bijaoui

German Translation…………………………………………………….. Uli Menke

Historical Consultant…………………………………………………… Natalie Zemon Davis

Producer……………………………………………………………………. David Auster

Casting Director…………………………………………………………. Beth Russell

Creative Planning Director…………………………………………… Jason Miller

Assistant Director……………………………………………………….. Peter Pasyk

Assistant Lighting Designer…………………………………………. Alia Stephen

Script Coordinators…………………………………………………….. Marie Fewer-Muncic, Emma Slunt,

Maxwell T. Wilson

Stage Manager……………………………………………………………. Alison Peddie

Assistant Stage Managers……………………………………………. Alice Ferreyra, Ann Stuart

Production Assistant…………………………………………………… Emma Slunt

Production Stage Managers…………………………………………. Marie Fewer-Muncic, Kim Lott,

Maxwell T. Wilson

Technical Director………………………………………………………. Sean Hirtle

The Stratford Festival’s 2019 season runs until November 10, featuring Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry VIII, Billy Elliot the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, Private Lives, The Neverending Story, Mother’s Daughter, Nathan the Wise, The Front Page, The Crucible and Birds of a Kind.

Leave a Reply