NY’s Public Theater cancels Palestinian production, ‘The Siege,’ it agreed to stage in May

US Politics
on 12 Comments

This is tragic news. The Public Theater is slamming the door on Palestinian artists. The US Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre in Palestine made this announcement today:

A message from the US Friends of The Jenin Freedom Theatre regarding the plans to present The Siege in partnership with the Public Theater:

It is with deep regret that we announce that the Public Theater has decided not to proceed with the plans to showcase The Freedom Theatre’s The Siege in May, 2016.

Regardless of the difficulties, we intend to present this play to the US public. We are disappointed, but we are working to find another comparable venue for the play in the fall of 2017.

Thank you,
Friends of The Jenin Freedom Theatre
Constancia, Inea, Kathy, Felice, Yoram, Noelle, Liz, Jen, Josh, Margo, Terry, Dorothy, Dana, Lisa, Shaina, Linda, Gary

The production had already been postponed one year at the request of the Public, but with a promise to put it on this year. It was never on the official schedule; and the decision came down in recent days. I am told that Oskar Eustis, the trailblazing artistic director at the Public, was behind the show all the way. But evidently intense pressure came to bear on the Public Theater board, ala the “Death of Klinghoffer” pressures that came to bear on the Metropolitan Opera over that production, which went off in 2014 but with such opposition that the Metropolitan may well rue that decision. The Public didn’t want to take that chance, evidently.

Oskar Eustis

Oskar Eustis

Here is a description of the Siege, a play about resistance. Account from the International Solidarity Movement:

Inspired by the true story of a group of freedom fighters, now exiled across Europe and Gaza, The Siege tells of a moment in history that took place during the height of the second intifada in 2002. The Israeli army had surrounded Bethlehem from the air and on land with snipers, helicopters and tanks, blocking all individuals and goods from coming in or out. For 39 days, people were living under curfew and on rations, with their supply of water cut and little access to electricity. Along with hundreds of other Palestinians, monks, nuns and ten activists from the International Solidarity Movement, these five freedom fighters took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, one of the holiest sites in the world.
The play gives some insight into what it was like to be trapped inside the church, surviving on so little, with the smell of decaying dead bodies in the building, shot by Israeli snipers. It brings out the hard choice they were faced with between surrendering or resisting until the end. However, no matter what they chose, they were given no other option than to leave behind their family and homeland for ever, as all the freedom fighters – in reality 39 – were deported and have not been able to come back since.
We’ll be following this story, which is so reminiscent of the New York Theatre Workshop’s cancellation of My Name Is Rachel Corrie in 2006. Yes, ten years ago, and I keep saying things are thawing. Not in the belly of the beast. What an insult and rebuke to Palestinian artists. More to come.
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12 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    February 10, 2016, 3:01 pm

    Remember this incident the next time anti-BDS people whine about bringing “politics” into culture.

    • Emory Riddle
      February 11, 2016, 4:47 pm

      Zionists lie, lie, lie and cover-up cover-up, cover-up.

      If they were unable to 1. Brainwash people from birth and 2. Control the narrative in the media, schools, movies — the pull would be pulled on this failed racist experiment immediately.

      Israel apologists ought to be hoping BDS works; the alternative is far worse.

  2. pabelmont
    February 10, 2016, 3:50 pm

    In 1989, Public Thearer (Joseph Papp presiding) denied Al Hakawati theater a performance see: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/15/opinion/at-papp-s-public-theater-a-show-of-arrogance.html

    Times change, but the give and take (give a promise, take it away) seem to stay put at The Public.

  3. ckg
    February 10, 2016, 5:53 pm

    Just a setback on the road to inevitable triumph.

  4. Tova Perlmutter
    February 10, 2016, 6:42 pm

    RIP Alan Rickman. He would have been a powerful ally in this battle.

  5. John Douglas
    February 10, 2016, 9:38 pm

    The Zionist’s futile attempt to let the people of the US know what’s happening in Palestine has turned out to be a full scale attack on fee speech, academic freedom and artistic freedom.

  6. Rashers2
    February 11, 2016, 11:49 am

    “The Zionist’s [sic] futile attempt to let the people of the US know what’s happening in Palestine has turned out to be a full scale attack on fee speech, academic freedom and artistic freedom.” Shouldn’t that be, “The Zionists’ futile attempt to conceal from the people of the US what’s happening in Palestine has turned out to be a full scale attack on fee speech, academic freedom and artistic freedom. “?

  7. Stephen Shenfield
    February 11, 2016, 5:12 pm

    The website of The Public Theater carries the statement: “The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust provides leadership support for The Public Theater’s year-round activities.” I suppose this is the most likely source of opposition. But if putting on the play was always contingent on the consent of funders and this consent had not been obtained, then the promise must have been insincere even at the time it was made.

  8. JustJessetr
    February 12, 2016, 6:58 am

    I was hoping for a balanced investigation into why the play was cancelled.

    MW got nearly everything about the latest vote at the Park Slope Food Coop wrong because the writers and most commentors aren’t members and weren’t there for the vote.

    Phil has no relationship to the theatre, and so I suspect his entire article is wrong on the facts.

    • Rashers2
      February 13, 2016, 3:25 am

      And you, I take it, are Park Slope Food Coop’s resident Zio-troll?

  9. Rashers2
    February 13, 2016, 3:09 am

    I expect the sponsors of NY’s Public Theatre concluded “The Siege” was ‚entartete Kunst‘ (‘degenerate’ art). Don’t y’all fo’get to burn theyam there books, while you’re ad it….

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