Leila Buck is an Arab American actress, writer and teaching artist. Since 1998 she has toured the U.S., Europe and China with her award-winning solo show, ISite, about moving between the U.S. and the Arab world. Her second play, In the Crossing, about her experience in Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006, was first performed in the Public Theater’s New Work Now! Festival 2006, and has since been developed with the support of Theater J, New York Theater Workshop, Silk Road Theatre Project, Chautauqua Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, Epic Theatre Center and the Public Theater.
Leila performed her monologue One, about an Arab-American canvassing for Obama, for Epic’s First Vote 2008, alongside work by renowned writers and performers including Neil LaBute, Craig Lucas, Kathleen Chalfant, David Strathairn, Nilajah Sun and Tony Kushner.
In 2008, Leila was selected as one of twelve writers out of over 700 to be part of the Public Theater’s inaugural Emerging Writers Group. The play she began in that year, Hkeelee, received a Special Jury Prize from the Middle East America grant co-sponsored by Silk Road (Chicago), Lark Play Development Center (New York), and Golden Thread Productions (San Francisco).
As an actress Leila has worked with writers and directors including Jessica Blank, Jo Bonney, Kia Corthron, Annie Dorsen, Yussef el Guindi, Erik Jensen, Thomas Kail, Isis Misdary, Naomi Wallace and Blanka Zizka, and at venues including the Wilma Theater and New York Theater Workshop, where she is a Usual Suspect. She has also been a founding member and Education Director of Nibras Arab-American Theater Collective, Artistic Director of Nisaa Arab-American Women’s Collective, and a writer and performer for the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. After training and working with Creative Arts Team for five years, Leila was New York Theater Workshop’s teaching artist at the Khalil Gibran International Academy, America’s first dual language English-Arabic public school. She has conducted workshops on storytelling and drama for cross-cultural engagement at conferences, universities, schools and cultural centers across the U.S. and around the world, including as a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy. Her work has appeared in American Theatre and Mizna magazine, The New York Times and Lebanon’s Daily Star and on “Brian Lehrer Live” and WBAI NY public radio, and her essay on Arab-American political theater can be found in Etching Our Own Image: Voices from the Arab American Art Movement, from Cambridge Scholars Press. Leila holds a B.A. in Theater from Wesleyan University and a Master’s in Drama for Education about the Arab World from NYU, is conversationally fluent in French, Spanish and Arabic and has performed, lived, taught and traveled in more than 18 countries in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Arab World.
HKEELEE (Tell Me a Story) [3 men, 3 women, 1 set with areas] Liberal and conservative values are embodied and contested by two American professors of Arab Studies, a Lebanese American teacher and her mother [25 pages, first act of a play in development in the Emerging Writers Group, Public Theater 2008; parts performed at the Cherry Lane Theater and The Internationalists in New York]
IN FLIGHT [1 man, 2 women, 1 either/or, 1 set] At JFK, a young Arab American man is questioned by a nervous new African American employee and an officious Filipino American translator [Writers Group Exercise, Public Theater 2008; 6 pages]
IN THE CROSSING [3 women, 1 man, 1 set] Shortly after a young Lebanese American woman and her Jewish husband arrive in Beirut to visit her extended family in the summer of 2007, the Israeli-Lebanese conflict breaks out. [written and performed for the Emerging Writers Group, Public Theater 2009; 90 minutes]
ISITE [one-woman show
ONE [1 woman, basic set] A Lebanese American woman in her 70s goes door to door registering voters [written for the Epic Theater Center’s “First Vote 2008” and performed at the John Jay Theater]
SCENES [5 men, 3 women, 1 child, extras, multiple settings] from Beirut in 1968 to present-day America, a portrait of Lebanese parents and their daughter [nd].
THE PANEL (with Rania Khalil and with Sarena Kennedy and Brook Wilensky-Lanford) [1 men, 3 women, 4 “audience” members; 1 set] a satiric take on a panel on Arab American Women in Performance [Nissan Arab American Women’s Collective; Arab American Comedy Festival in New York, 2006; 10 pages]
Return to: Middle Eastern American Theatre: History, Playwrights and Plays
Contact: leilabuck at gmail.com