All I gathered about the show was it featured a Muslim guy and gal and a Jewish guy and gal engaging in debate through the mediums of poetry and hip hop. I wasn’t sure how much tension there would be or whether I would find listening to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be entertaining.
The show, produced by @ffidler, was held at the Nuyorican Poets Café. The bouncer at the door let me in 30 minutes early because of the foul weather. This was fortuitous, as I accidentally miscalculated how much time I had between the movie and the Tour.
The show kicked off with a drum solo by Swiss Chris. The solo was impressive. He drummed on everything in his area. (His use of drumsticks that continuously changed colors was nice eye candy in the dim room.) The floor, a chair, curtains, oh, and, a drum set. He was very energetic and talented. His ability to twirl his drumsticks while simultaneously keeping a beat was impressive.
My only criticism is from where I sat, in the back, left corner, I wasn’t able to see a lot of the drum performance. (Especially when he was drumming lower than knee level.) If the stage had been elevated it would have been better. However, that’s a limitation of the venue, not the performer.
After the drum solo, the emcee, Simply Rob, introduced the women. They got up on stage, with their scripts in hand. They seemed slightly awkward standing in public and reading off a script, but only for the first few moments. They quickly got into their roles. They promised in their introduction (deliver in rhyme) that they aren’t here to kill each other or sing “Kumbaya my lord”. They suggested that through poetry they could express their own perspectives and understand the emotions of the other.
The two women, Tahani Salah, an American Palestinian-Muslim, and Vanessa, the @hebrewmamita, an American Jew of Syrian-Russian ancestry, had completely different modes of dress. While they both wore sweat-like stretchy pants, Tahani Salah wore a head covering, while the Hebrew Mamita wore a sleeveless shirt.
Both women are attractive. (Later, when I watched the youtube video for the event, I saw that she wore a jacket or a longer sleeved shirt in a prior performance. On Tuesday evening, she did not. I had to concentrate on the words she was saying, because otherwise my mind would have drifted to more physical things.)
After they finished, Simply Rob introduced the men, Mazzi, a Persian Muslim, and Sneakas, an Israeli Jew. (Mazi wore jeans. Sneakas wore purple pants. The pants fit in perfectly with his word play.) They came out and introduced themselves with a lively hip hop beat and dance.
The Hebrew Mamita, got up and recited a heartfelt poem about her inability to defend Israel for its actions. It was obvious she’d wrestled with her Zionism and her humanism and found a conflict between them.
And, so it went, a serious introspective poem by one of the woman followed by a lighter hip hop piece. This is a clever way to keep the audience from burning out on serious things or losing themselves to the rhythm and incapable of following the deeper message.
One exception was a piece performed by the men, in which they explored what an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian terrorist are thinking in the moments leading up to a conflict. That was almost completely serious and the crowd was moved by how it progressed.
Both of the women delivered a piece that really didn’t fit with the evening. The Hebrew Mamita spoke about her aunt and her Sephardic heritage. And, while I think that a discussion among Jewish people about the treatment of Sephardim is important, it didn’t seem to fit the theme of the Palestinian-Israeli relationship. Tahani Salah spoke about her relationship with her father. She added a bit at the end to make it connect to the overall struggle, but I think she lost some of the audience by taking a long time getting there.
However, their poems were highly entertaining and full of emotion.
There was one part where both women stood on stage, back to back. First, the one facing the audience spoke. When she finished, they exchanged places and the other spoke. This was my first artistic performance, so I don’t know if that is a common artistic device. The women didn’t appear to be addressing each other, so I didn’t understand the need for the dramatic pose.
I especially liked:
- The Hebrew Mamita’s story about getting an abusive text message on Passover night. She had a great observation that her youtube channel is often attacked by a religious Orthodox Jew for her dress and words. When she said, he (the attacker) watches everything she makes, I laughed.
- Tahani Salah’s pieces. The one that resonated most with me was when she pointed out that most people would have a hard time telling an Israeli from a Palestinian. Underneath it all, all we are is humans.
- Mazi’s energy. It’s not easy for me to dance in a room full of people dancing. Mazi put on a solo dance performance that made me want to jump up and dance along!
- Sneakas’ word play. Not only were his puns and word tweaking funny, they were also insightful.
Overall, I had a really good time. The performances were entertaining from beginning to end. I was struck by the energy of all the performers. I wish the show had dug more into the motivations of why each side acts the way it does, but, I understand the limitations they face in keeping it entertaining, not too heavy, and mainstream. I would highly recommend this to anyone who can think critically. If you are scared of the possible tension of the two opposing viewpoints, don’t be! Come, see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I give it 8 out of 10.