Abinader, Elmaz

Elmaz’s books, Children of the Roojme, a Family’s Journey from Lebanon, and In the Country of my Dreams…., as  well as her play, Country of Origin illustrate personal lives of Arabs and Arab Americans  negotiating hostile terrain, cultural polarities, and geographic and social displacement. Her other plays, 32 Mohammed, Ramadan Moon, The Torture Quartet and Messages from the Siege provide  an articulation of the effect of political actions on personal lives both here and in the Middle East. The Oregon Drama Critics cited Country of Origin for its excellence by awarding two Drammies to the play and to the composer of the music, Tony Khalife. Other awards include a PEN Award for In the Country of My Dreams… and a Goldies Award for Literature.

Elmaz has also been a Fulbright Senior Fellow to Egypt and a winner of several residencies.  Children of the Roojme was the first memoir about Arab-Americans published by a trade publisher in the U.S. writers of color. Now a professor at Mills College, Elmaz’s primary concern is giving voice to other writers of color. Her participation in VONA allows her the opportunity to make a difference in the growth of the cannon of literature of color.

The Shows of Elmaz Abinader with music by Tony Khalife performed by the Country of Origin Band

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN [one-woman show, 3 characters, 3 minor sets, 4 musicians] The winner of two Drammy Awards, this three-act play is a portrait of three generations of women: Marwa, the small village mother who travels with her daughters to the U.S. in search of her husband: Elizabeth, Lebanon-born, American-raised daughter sent back to the “old country” to marry her first cousin; and Elmaz, a seven-year old who faces racism and self-loathing in a small Pennsylvania town. [premiere 1997, University of California, Berkeley

Running time 1 hour, 25 minutes]

RAMADAN MOON [one-woman show, 1 set, 2 acts, 3 musicians and added media] The  notions of the veil, of the practices of Islam and the role of women in the Arab world are explored through the playwright’s experience with her first interactions with veiled societies and the company of women in the

Middle East and Gulf countries. [premiere 1999 Porter Troupe Gallery San Diego; running time 60 minutes]

32 MOHAMMEDS [one-woman show, 1 act, 1 set, 3 musicians]

While teaching in Egypt, the narrator connects her students with other Arabs in Palestine and the different lives they lead. Focusing on the lives of children living under siege, the story of Mohammed al Durra is dramatized. Original music by Tony Khalife. [premiere 2004 University of North Dakota; It runs 35 minutes]

THE TORTURE QUARTET [1-4 actors, no set, media and music]

In the shadow of Abu Gharib, this play with poetry tells the story of four victims of a torture including one of the soldiers. From the lips of the mother, the prisoner, the interpreter and the torturer, the unheard voices that are affected by the humiliation of a race.  [premiere 2005, University of San Francisco; running time 75 minutes]

VOICES FROM THE SEIGE (8 actor/readers, 4 musicians, no set]

Eight writers, poets and performers respond to e-mails from Gaza and Lebanon during the Invasions of 2006. Combining poetry, monologue and music, this CeaseFire Presentation creates an emotional dialogue between the people under siege and the sense of poetic witness. The artists change for each production and include local artists. [premiere 2006, La Pena Cultural Center; running time 90 minutes]

Contact: elmaz at elmazabinader.com

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