Can street theatre and community murals make a difference? Is this what we mean by "cultural diplomacy"?
The Levantine Cultural Center presents Art and Activism in Bil'in: from Los Angeles to Palestine, an evening of public conversation, photography and art in the context of dialogue and conflict resolution. In October 2014, a team of Los Angeles based-artists formed part of a historic effort in the West Bank village of Bil'in, Palestine, when Imaginaction director Hector Aristizabal brought together an international group of artists and creative activists for an arts residency that engaged hundreds in Bil'in and neighboring villages. Working with local and regional Palestinian cultural leaders, the group engaged community in art and theater workshops that resulted in public performances, large scale puppets and murals painted in collective fashion along roads and buildings.
The group also joined their talents to support Bil'ins emblematic weekly demonstrations. Bil'in is the West Bank village featured in Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's award-winning documentary, 5 Broken Cameras. For over a decade the non-violent protests have become a symbol for Palestinian cultural resistance to the barrier wall that snakes through Bil'in's ancestral olive groves appropriating lands and fortifying the Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit. During their time in Bil'in. the group witnessed celebration and harvest as well as danger and violence as they worked with the persistent and heroic people of Bil'in.
$10 suggested contribution. Seating limited, reservations strongly advised: 323.413.2001. See below for participant bios.
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In conjunction with the new exhibition War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, four Southern California-based poets read from two recent collections of poetry, Dear Darwish and With Our Eyes Wide Open, that explore the effects of war and exile on people in South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, focuses on the impact of recent wars on populations around the world specially the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.), Central America, and the Middle East. This international anthology of poetry explores the impact of the United States in wars as well as upon the "nobodies"-outcasts, immigrants, the working class: "They [the poets]...represent an emerging poetic consciousness which is helping todefine and shape the imagination and language of the 21st Century." Using a call-and-response pattern, the poems look at the impact of the United States' wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central American, and Iraq on lives. Vietnamese-American poet Teresa Mei Chuc, and Julia Stein read from their own poems. Dima Hilal, a Lebanese American will read her work. We will also read some of the Middle Eastern poets in the anthology from Turkey, Oman, Egyptian-American, Morocco, Iraq, and Chechnya.
Read reviews of With Eyes Wide Open here and in Counterpunch here.
Levantine Cultural Center presents for the first time in Los Angeles, Ramy Essam live in concert and a public conversation. Essam is the Egyptian revolutionary rocker whose song "Irhal" contributed to the uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, and who is featured in Jehane Noujaim's acclaimed documentary, The Square. He's recognized as perhaps the single most important musical artist of the Arab Spring.
This month Essam will undertake his first North American tour, with stops in NYC, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Seattle and Vancouver. His show at the Levantine Center will mark a landmark appearance at the Levantine Center. "I have known of the work of the Levantine Center even from Egypt, and I can't imagine any other place to make my first West Coast concert than with them," Essam declared when the concert was confirmed. This will truly be a special event and Essam will perform not only his revolutionary hits, but also newly written and recorded material dealing with the student protests and ongoing harassment, jailings and worse of revolutionary activists, including many of his friends. He will also talk about his experiences the last three years and what he sees as the best path forward for Egypt in this difficult period. Listen/watch Ramy Essam on YouTube.
Sheana Ochoa, author of the first biography of theatre and acting legend Stella Adler entitled STELLA! Mother of Modern Acting, with a foreword by Mark Ruffalo, will moderate a discussion about the changing craft of acting. Stella Adler taught Brando, DeNiro, Ruffalo, Benicio Del Toro and many others. This panel features two contemporary young actors of Middle Eastern heritage, influenced by Stella Adler's teachings, Mojean Aria and Thom Bishops; an acting coach and casting director who studied extensively with Stella, Deborah Aquila; and a casting director formed by the New York theatre world, April Webster. The program will be a dialogue among the panelists about the evolution of acting from the early 20th century until today, and a look at how actors of Middle Eastern heritage are fitting in, despite potential barriers in the business.
Tickets are $15, or $25 includes a signed copy of the new hardback biography, STELLA! Mother Modern Acting. The café is open as of 6:30 pm serving delicious authentic Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine. Reservations are strongly suggested as space is limited: call 323.413.2001.
On Saturday, December 13th, 2014, the Levantine Cultural Center will hold its year-end comedy benefit show with the New Sultans of Satire at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, in Long Beach. With a special tribute to Robin Williams, this evening brings together the top young Middle Eastern comedians at work together, including Aron Kader (Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil"), Tehran, Sammy Obeid, Marie-Thérèse Abou-Daoud, Sherwin Arae and Melissa Shoshahi. The Levantine Cultural will donate a portion of the proceeds to Kinder USA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) to help deserving children in Gaza with medical needs following the summer war. The Levantine Cultural Center works to bridge political and religious divides that may exist between Americans and the Middle East/North Africa, by presenting arts and education programs in the spirit of exploration, discovery and unity.
Proceeds benefit the Levantine Cultural Center, a 501(c)3 founded 13 years ago as a grassroots nonprofit organization that champions a greater understanding of the Middle East/North Africa and our communities in diaspora.
Or How a British Pakistani Upstart Turned Herself Inside Out
By Sheana Ochoa
If you're like me, you're fascinated by actors who can transform themselves on stage and play multiple characters convincingly in a sitting. That's acting. The inimitable Marlon Brando, who died ten years ago, said that acting is not an art, it is a business, but anyone watching his oeuvre of films would disagree. Let's agree that acting is a craft, like any art, that must be practiced and honed. Happily, once in a while a new talent comes to us with such presence and authenticity, the artistic merit of the work cannot be denied. Nadia P. Manzoor's one-woman autobiographical play Burq Off! — which breezed into Los Angeles for a mere three-day run on its way to San Francisco-is one such ennobling and humanizing tour de force.
It's also hysterically funny.
Limited seating for this long-running and inspired comedy show-come enjoy a healthy dose of comic relief, laugh about life and the Middle East with one of L.A's hottest comedy troupes, the Sultans
Deep Soul is an intimate evening of soulful Kurdish and Mizrahi music with Kurdish master musician Delil Dilanar (Voice, Duduk, Tambour) in a rare Los Angeles appearance with Yuval Ron (Oud, Saz and vocals) and Jamie Papish on percussion. This concert in a poetic spirit includes lyrics in Kurdish, Hebrew and Arabic and is dedicated to a more pacific Middle East.
Presented by the Levantine Cultural Center, with media support from KPFK Pacifica radio, 90.7 FM, and Niroj Levantine Cuisine, Deep Soul takes place at the Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025. Free lot and street parking. Tickets $20 General Admission, $30 Preferred Reserved seating, $25 day-of/at the door.
Seating is limited, advance purchase advised, call 323.413.2001.
On Saturday, June 21st, the Levantine Cultural Center will officially celebrate the 13th anniversary of our founding (first public program presented at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre on June 23, 2001) with a diverse evening of music, comedy, poetry and more. Performers include the popular group Bedouin X (Arabic and North African music) along with musicians Rowan Storm, Jim Grippo, Dann Torres, Kutsal and Yuval Ron. Comedians Omar Elba and Omid Singh will also perform. A delicious meal of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine will be served.
Minimum per person donation of $50/up includes dinner, one drink and performances, or attend after 9 pm, no dinner, with minimum $25 donation. With a donation of $100/up per person, the evening includes performances, dinner, reserved seating, open bar, and a special gift.
Seating is limited, reservations, info: 323.413.2001.
Make a contribution toward our mural project 99 Heroes of the Middle East Mural or to create a new Fellowship or Internship on behalf of a needy undergrad or grad student. Contribute to keep the Levantine Cultural Center strong.
The Levantine Cultural Center was founded in June 2001, with a simple mission: to unite the diverse Arab/Middle Eastern populations in Los Angeles - whether they be Moroccan, Iranian, Syrian, Yemeni, or anything in between. In our unity, we would have a place to raise our voices, share our culture (and food!) and come together as a single community. On September 11, 2001, that need became even starker and clearer. We have served the diverse people - Arab and non - of Los Angeles for almost thirteen years, promoting understanding and tolerance through art, music, political forums, and film. We have done a great deal to be proud of, and on an exceedingly modest budget.
While we are celebrating our 13th anniversary, the Levantine Cultural Center has so much more to accomplish, so much more good to do. We are only at the beginning of our work. That's why we ask for your ongoing support.
Give us a chance to continue the work. And enjoy some of our favorite performers and oldest supporters.
Other June events include the wrap-up of our critically-acclaimed exhibit, The Map is Not the Territory, and the opening of Local Not Local—a exhibition of Arabic and Persian typography, and a new Sultans of Satire show on June 27—because we're big believers in the power of laughter and stories.