Award winning author & actor Osamah Sami speaks about his role in Tales of a city by the Sea, Gaza, the siege, the controversy and more…

Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.

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To purchase tickets for Sydney show on August 3rd click here. 

 

Weekend Note Review: a poetic story of resilience

by Julia Wakefield

Following its sold out premiere Melbourne season in 2014, Tales of a City by the Sea opened at The Bakehouse Theatre this week. The author is Palestinian/Australian/Canadian writer Samah Sabawi. She describes her work as ‘a poetic journey into the ordinary lives of people living in abnormal circumstances and their struggle to survive’.

The play grew out of a collection of poetry that Sabawi wrote while she was in Gaza during the three week bombardment of 2008/2009, prompted by her own experiences and those of her friends and family. She says she is not trying to put across a political message. Although this is a story based on real life events that took place during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008, its main purpose is to highlight the resilience and compassion that people display in such dire circumstances. In this current era of global conflict and confusion, there are many places featured in news bulletins that are enduring similar situations. Sabawi wants us to see ‘the detail of daily lives of people they see for brief seconds on the news’.

The play was originally directed by Lech Mackiewicz, and the current director is Wahibe Moussa. When it opened in Melbourne the plan was to have two simultaneous performances on the West Bank and in Gaza. The play was performed on the West Bank a week later; the script has been read in Gaza but as yet there has been no opportunity to perform the play there.

In the main characters of the play, Jomana and Rami, we see another theme: the gulf between the Palestinian diaspora (those whose families escaped from Gaza and who have grown up in an affluent, privileged society), and the same generation who remain trapped in Gaza. Jomana lives in Gaza, Rami is a doctor raised in Texas by refugee Palestinian parents. They are in love, but in order to enter each other’s world they have no choice but to abandon their families and the reality they grew up in.

The play ideally suits the intimate atmosphere of the Bakehouse Theatre. Scenes are evoked with the simplest of props, and Sabawi’s poetry slips seamlessly into the characters’ dialogue, serving to highlight emotional moments. In some places it appears as a passionate soliloquy, as in Rami’s heart rending speech “what price a life?” But it is also there in the play’s frequent humorous moments, such as the Dr Zeuss style banter that Rami exchanges with his mother. This reference to a familiar Western poetic style serves to emphasize the gap between Rami’s and Jomana’s upbringing. We realise that Rami, in spite of his heritage, has more experience in common with the audience than he has with Jomana. The contrast is cleverly portrayed in a particularly riveting scene where Jomana is conversing with her father in Gaza, while Rami is simultaneously speaking to his mother in Texas, on either side of a dining table.. Read more

Adelaide Theatre Guide Review: A gripping piece of theatre that begs to be seen and heard

Tony Busch

Adelaide Theatre Guide

June 11, 2016

This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.

Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.

Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.

The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.

Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”.   Read more 

 

Staging Palestinian love story in six Australian cities: Launching Tales of a City by the Sea 2016 national tour fundraising drive

Woven together from the actual experiences of people living under occupation, Tales of a City by the Sea is a journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza Strip.  Jomana, a Palestinian woman living in a Gaza refugee camp, falls in love with Rami, an  American-born Palestinian doctor and activist who has just arrived on one of the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with a relentless string of challenges. Ultimately, Rami must decide between returning to his comfortable life in Texas and staying in Palestine with Jomana. Choosing to stay means leaving his family and career behind for a life ravaged by war, while leaving means not only losing Jomana but also ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

“[A] nuanced exploration of the myriad ways the occupation affects Palestinians at home and abroad…This gripping play is an act of resistance that implores its audience to take heed.”  ★★★  Rebecca Harkins-Cross,   The Age

Tales of a City by the Sea is about what it means to leave home to create a life in more tolerable conditions, and what it means to stay. It is about relationships between parents who have chosen to leave, and children who want to return. It is about how people in diaspora see their connection to home, and how people at home see them. It is a Palestinian story, but more broadly it is a migrant story.

“A fantastically told story of two worlds colliding. An elegantly simple set […] is perfect for actors Nicole Chamoun and Osamah Sami to excel in their lead roles.”  ★★★★  Harry Hughes,  The Music

The play premiered in November 2014, with simultaneous productions at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne and the AlRowward Cultural and Theatre Society, in Aida Refugee Camp in Palestine. Both productions received overwhelmingly passionate responses from audiences and critics alike.

“The beautiful and passionate voice of Tayah makes the story even more touching…[This play] wondrously gives  hope and prevents you from giving up on Gaza.”  ★★★★  Zeynep Incir, Melbourne Arts Fashion

In 2016, we hope to remount our Australian production at the La Mama theatre in Melbourne and then take it on tour to Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart, Casula and Byron Bay.

Why Support This

Tales of the City by the Sea tells the story of people in terrible situations, living under occupation but it doesn’t define them by their suffering  This is not the kind of story set in Palestine that you hear in the typical every day news reports — we hope to challenge this by telling a story that is not just about the conflict but the experiences of the people who live in and around it.

We believe that sharing Palestinian stories represents a key step towards peaceful and just resolution to the conflict and that a view into the realities of life under occupation has the power to change hearts and minds and that is why we feel it is important that this story is told.

Tales of the City by the Sea will feature a diverse cast and crew and help realize our hopes to see the diversity of Australia represented on the Australian stage. Our cast and creative team include both recently arrived migrants and multigenerational Australians. We have roots in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Poland, Malta, Italy, Egypt, and Chile.

Funding is the greatest challenge faced by this project, which is why we are asking for your support.

The premiere last year was a co-share, this time, we want to be able to properly remunerate actors and artists involved in bringing this story to the stage. Your contributions go towards supporting a production that deeply values and wants to support its artists.

How the funds will be used

We already have lots of wonderful in kind support such as accommodation but we are committed to paying our artists proper wages.  We will also need to cover production costs for set and costume design,  transport for equipment and cost of travel for the cast and crew.

Raising this money will allow us to commit to the first leg of the Australian tour which means remounting in Melbourne with our artists on full wages regardless of money raised through tickets. That means any revenue raised through tickets will go on to support next leg of tour.

Upcoming Event:

So, let’s kick off our fundraising drive with this exciting event.  Please join us on the rooftop of the Arcadia Hotel and help bring Tales of a City by the Sea to six Australian cities in 2016. Enjoy a BBQ, experience live Arabic music, watch some amazing performances, meet the cast and crew, and dance the night away!

Get your tickets here 

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Tales Of The City By The Sea – Theatre Review Melbourne. Arts. Fashion

Monday, November 17, 2014 – 10:49
ZEYNEP INCIR

What: Tales of the City by the Sea
When: November 12 –23
Where: La Mama Courthouse
Written by Samah Sabawi

Directed by Lech Mackiewicz
Assistant Director: Izabella Mackiewicz
Performed by Nicole Chamon, Osamah Sami, Emily Coupe, Majid Shokor, Wahibe Moussa, Reece Vella, Aseel Tayeh, Ubaldino Mantelli and Cara Whitehouse
Set design by Lara Week
Lighting design by Shane Grant
Sound design by Khaled Sabsabi

When I hear the phrase ‘the city by the sea’ I think of a place of peacefulness, natural beauty and a place to fall in love. Tales of the City by the Sea tells a story from Gaza. Gaza is a city by the sea but does not associate with the thoughts I have written above. It associates with constant deadly attacks on humans by other humans, suffering, death, shame and incapability of the world to end the violence. Have you ever searched images of Gaza on the web? They have been suffering so much for so long that one is inclined to give up hope.

Tales of the City by the Sea tells us the story of people living in Gaza who keep dreaming, loving, giving birth to new lives, and hoping. It is a love story between a Palestinian poet and journalist Jomana (Nicole Chamon) and a doctor Rami (Osamah Sami) a Palestinian who was born and lives in America. The story begins rather calmly but then the siege over the city takes the lovers apart and then the bombing starts and tears everything apart. There is also a beautiful side story about another Palestinian couple who are engaged.

The most remarkable thing about the story for me was that it profoundly managed to portray how the perception of time can be different under diverse conditions. It reminded me how we let the time pass while we keep waiting for things to happen, and that the idea of having time to wait is a luxurious illusion.

The set design was composed of curtains hanging down from three rows of ropes. It was highly adjustable and cleverly set the scene for different places and moods. It managed to make me feel both the sense of freshness coming from the sea, and the sense of captivity coming from the siege at the city. It also carried the play a little bit away from the realistic conventions. The acting and the directing styles remained faithful to the conventions of realism which was a down side for my taste. I enjoy witnessing the precariousness of the stage, rather than the rationality of the ‘real’. The acting was generally pretty good but had its moments of inconsistency.

Touching songs sung by the beautiful and passionate voice of Tayah made the story even more touching. I could hear sniffing noises coming from all around the theatre after the second half of the play. In my defence, I was sniffing because of my allergies…
Tales of the City by the Sea was a touching play portraying many horrible things happening on this world. Nevertheless, the play wondrously achieves to give hope and prevents you from giving up on Gaza.

4 stars

http://www.melbartsfash.com/101110

Audio: In conversation with Tales of a City by the Sea director Lech Mackiewicz and actress Wahibe Moussa

A fantastic interview with Lech Mackiewicz and Wahibe Moussa about why they chose to be involved with the play Tales of a City by the Sea and what they hope this play will accomplish.  It offers a wonderful insight into the role of theatre in building cultural bridges and telling the stories that need to be told.

With thanks to Jan Bartlett and 3CR radio.

Buy Tickets for Melbourne Production.

Jon Faine interviews Samah Sabawi about her upcoming play Tales of a City by the Sea

Jon Faine’s conversation hour with playwright Samah Sabawi, actor Miriam Margolyes and novelist Ceridwen Dovey

Buy Tickets for Melbourne Production