The new season at St. Ann’s Warehouse will open with a bang — in the form of two plays from a woman who says President Bush and Osama bin Laden are mere “mirrors” of one another.
“Honestly, I want to congratulate Osama bin Laden and George Bush, because I think the two of you found in each other your mirror. And I’m not going to buy that one is better or worse than the other,” said Adelheid Roosen, the Dutch playwright.
“If you study the relationship of Bush and the Arabian world and the relationship of Osama bin Laden with the West, they’re like two brothers [whose] parents didn’t teach to live with each other. They both have such a big influence on the world we live in now, but it was their decision. Go to a desert, put a fence around it and just play the war with the two of you. Do your fight and close the gate to the rest of the world.”
Talk about an exciting opening to the St. Ann’s Warehouse season! Roosen’s plays are just as searing as her publicity interview commentary.
Both “The Veiled Monologues,” which opened on Oct. 5, and “Is.Man,” which was set to open the following night, focus on the state of Muslim women in the Western world and Europe, whose traumatic experiences their creator hopes to help better, or, at the very least, explain.
“I have a huge passion for the dialogue between the West and the Arabian culture,” Roosen told GO Brooklyn last week. “But [part of being] a human is that when you see something that you don’t recognize, your body and spirit lock up.” Opening up a channel of discussion is what Roosen’s work attempts to do.
“The Veiled Monologues” found its inspiration in Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” Roosen helped stage Ensler’s show in Holland, and got the idea to combine Ensler’s concept with a previous work of her own that explored duality in the lives of Moroccan women living in Europe. And though Roosen is a well-known member of the avant-garde Dutch theater community, the show’s premier in Holland —which was lauded by critics — was plagued by bomb threats and performances in other countries have required extra security or performances that were not open to the public.
“The ‘Vagina Monologues’ is beautiful, but it’s about Western women. Where are the veiled women?” asked Roosen. “The Arabian world knows so much about eroticism and sensuality and the whole sensitive world. In the West, we are so afraid and cannot accept an image from the Arabian world that is more beautiful than something from the west. We can only see terrorists and people living in holes.”
Roosen does acknowledge that current cultural clashes and a war with no defined enemy add a risque factor to her work, which will be performed in English for the first time at St. Ann’s, which would not comment on the incendiary nature of Roosen’s shows and said no extra security has been arranged.
“I would love for people to see the performances and say this is the real danger,” Roosen said of “Is.Man” which deals with the prevalence of “honor killings” — when a man kills a female family member for bringing shame to the family — in Holland today. “[Children] are growing up in Holland and experiencing trauma with one leg in each culture. It’s tormenting their hearts and their way of growing up. It’s like they have to lie to both cultures.”
And, refusing to ignore the elephant in the room, Roosen cited the United States-led “War on Terror” as a huge factor in the disconnect between Western and Arabian culture, without which her work might not garner such exposure.
It’s this desire to go beyond the surface of cultural relations that attracted St. Ann’s to Roosen’s work.
“One of the things that really worries me is that I don’t know if white Americans are at all interested in Muslim culture,” said Susan Feldman, the artistic director at St. Ann’s Warehouse. “I worry about the lack of dialogue and diplomacy and I worry about the sense of having an enemy that we can’t even identify.”
“The Veiled Monologues” opens Oct. 5 and “Is.Man” opens Oct. 6 at St. Ann’s Warehouse (38 Water St., at Dock Street in DUMBO). Tickets are $30 for each play or $50 for both. For information, call (718) 254-8779 or visit www.stannswarehouse.....
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