Najla Said- Palestine

The Center for Arabic Culture Presents

PALESTINE

Written and performed by Najla Said

Direction and dramaturgy by Sturgis Warner

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In Palestine, actor/playwright Najla Said provides a unique passage into one of the most volatile and historic corners of the earth. With compassion, humor, and honesty she makes a case for Palestinian and Arab points of view in ways that truly allow them to be heard. Raised in privilege on New York City’s Upper West Side (where many of her best friends were Jewish) Najla was forced as a teenager to take a family trip to the Middle East to visit her father’s homeland. Anorexic and depressed, obsessed with boys and the beach, her experiences nevertheless kindled a life-long exploration of what it means to be both Arab and American. Najla takes audiences on a whirlwind tour from kissing Jewish boys to “the stench of Gaza,” through two wars, the horrors of 9/11, encounters with world figures including Yasser Arafat, and life with her beloved father. Edward Said, was a professor at Columbia University and, until his death in 2003, a worldwide spokesman for Palestine and the Middle East.

Palestine was originally produced in 2010 by Twilight Theatre Company in association with New York Theatre Workshop. The eight-week Off-Broadway run at the Fourth Street Theater was sold-out. In 2012 Palestine was subsequently produced by InterAct Theatre as part of their Outside the Frame Festival in Philadelphia. Najla has a performed a concert version of the play all over the country with performances at Harvard, Brown, Boston College, Franklin and Marshall, University of Michigan, University of Alabama, Middlebury, among dozens of others.

In 2013 Najla expanded the play into a memoir published by Penguin Books under the title Looking for Palestine. She went on a nationwide book tour sometimes performing the concert version of the play in lieu of book readings.

Najla Said (Playwright, Performer) As an actress, Najla has performed Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally, as well as in film and television. Favorite theatre credits include Heather Raffo’s Nine Parts of Desire (Seattle Rep), the London and New York premieres of Karen Malpede’s Prophecy, and Naomi Wallace’s The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East (Central Square Theater). In April 2010, Najla completed an eight-week Off-Broadway run of her solo show, Palestine. That same year, she was named one of “Forty Feminists Under Forty” by The Feminist Press. Since her Off-Broadway run ended, Najla has performed “Palestine” in over 25 high schools, colleges, and universities around the country and the world.

Najla is one of New York Theatre Workshop’s “Usual Suspects,” and has also worked at the Public, The Cherry Lane, New Dramatists, The Lark, and Second Stage, among others.

In 2012, she collaborated with Vanessa Redgrave on “A World I Loved,” based on her grandmother’s memoir, which premiered at The Brighton Festival in the UK, and The Miller Theatre in collaboration with The Public Theatre in New York.

In the spring of 2014 Najla’s play The Assumption of Mary was featured as one of the 48 plays in The Mysteries at The Flea Theatre.

In October 2016, her libretto for Mahmoud Fairouz’s Oratorio, “Zabur” was performed at Carnegie Hall, and in 2018 the composer David Robert Coleman used some of the text from “Palestine” to create a musical piece that was performed by the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Daniel Barenboim, on their European tour. The piece premiered in Aarhus, Denmark, and was also performed at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and the Salzburg and Lucerne Festivals.

Najla also recently guest starred on NCIS: New Orleans (CBS-TV.)

Sturgis Warner has been an actor and director for many years in New York City, specializing in new plays and new play development. As an actor he has worked at The Public Theater, Atlantic Theater Company, Signature, Second Stage, La Mama, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Portland Stage, among others. He has directed many new plays in New York and around the country.

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