The struggles of Arab Americans in the Jim Crow South are examined when the Arab American National Museum (AANM) presents Dead Are My People. Closing the 2017 AANM Global Fridays performance series, playwright Ismail Khalidi’s staged reading will be performed by Noor Theatre and features live musical accompaniment led by Hadi Eldebek.
The performance takes place at AANM in the Aliya Hassan Auditorium at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. The staged reading will be followed by audience question and answer session with Khalidi, Eldebek and members of Noor Theatre.
Inspired by Khalil Gibran’s poem of the same name, Dead Are My People follows Nicola, who flees the famine-stricken mountains of Lebanon for the U.S. during World War I. Once there, he hopes to track down his uncle Tanios who emigrated years before. Finding few traces of Tanios and receiving conflicting information from townspeople, Nicola must ultimately navigate the treacherous terrain of the Jim Crow South.
“This production explores a moment in history that has shaped the lives of so many Arab Americans whose stories are like those of the character Nicola’s — negotiating their place in this country either as people of color or as white-passing individuals. This is a struggle that continues to affect our community today,” says AANM’s Curator of Education & Public Programming Ryah Aqel.
Ismail Khalidi is a playwright and director who has written, performed, curated and taught internationally. His plays include Foot (Teatro Amal, 2016-17), Sabra Falling (Pangea World Theater, 2017) and Returning to Haifa (Finborough Theatre, 2018). His writing on politics and culture has appeared in The Nation, American Theatre Magazine and Remezcla.
Khalidi’s time in Dearborn as a resident artist — where he will be workshopping the play with community members and conducting research — is an important step toward the piece’s final form.
“We are honored to have Ismail Khalidi and Noor Theatre develop this important piece of work as part of AANM’s Artists + Residents program. Bringing Noor Theatre’s first full-length production to AANM was a natural fit for us as we strive to support Arab American theater in the community,” Aqel said.
The live music that will accompany the staged reading was written by Hadi Eldebek and will be performed by four musicians on instruments including oud, banjo, clarinet, and vibraphone. Dave Jones, a Lebanese American and founding member of Detroit-based indie band Frontier Ruckus, will play banjo in the ensemble.
Tickets are $10 AANM Members and $15 general public. For tickets, click here.
Prior to the Dec. 8 show at 6:30 p.m., AANM offers guests an opportunity to stroll through its new exhibition, THEM: Objects of Separation, Hate and Violence, a project created by the Jim Crow Museum to highlight hurtful stereotypes.
This performance of Dead Are My People is made possible in part by the National Performance Network (NPN) and MAP Fund.
Global Fridays is made possible in part by Comerica Bank and the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, as well as media sponsors Downtown Monitor and CJAM 99.1 FM.