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March 26, 2004 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-03-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

`Children Of Abraham'

Teen drama presents a common basis for living in peace.

DIANA LIEBERMAN
StaffWriter

T

recruiting, writing and training Christian,
Muslim and Jewish teens to present both the
play and post-production discussions.
After the initial performance, Rosenberg
hopes Children ofAbraham will move on to
high schools, museums, cultural centers and
religious institutions.
Most recently, she gave a presentation on the
project at the March 17 religious diversity sym-
posium for public school teachers and adminis-
trators, co-sponsored by Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit, Oakland
County Superintendents Association and the
National Conference for Community and
Justice. In the fall, she will speak about Children
ofAbraham to delegates to the Episcopal
Church Conference on Inter-Faith Affairs in
Washington, D.C.
"You know how much I can do, as one
Jewish woman? — As much as this," Rosenberg
said, indicating a tiny space between her thumb
and forefinger.
"If we could have Muslims, Jews and
Christians together selling tickets for the same
event, that would be a miracle to me."

he trip from suburban
Oakland County to the newly
built headquarters of the
Mosaic Youth Theatre in
Detroit takes only 20 or 30 minutes.
But the religious, ethnic and economic
distance between the 20 or so teens who
have worked since September on the
Children ofAbraham project — teens
from Detroit and the suburbs — takes
much longer to span.
They are rich and poor; Jewish,
Christian and Muslim; some have spent
much of their short lives in the Mideast
peace movement, and others have never
given it much thought.
What brought them together was the
joint vision of peace activist Brenda
Rosenberg of Bloomfield Hills and Imam
Abdullah El-Amin, executive director of
the Council of Islamic Organizations of
Michigan. That vision resulted in a 45-
minute play titled Children ofAbraham,
which premieres Saturday, March 27, at
Behind The Scenes
the Jewish Community Center of
"This is a project we feel will continue to be
Metropolitan Detroit's Aaron DeRoy
performed
here in Detroit for at least a couple
Theatre in West Bloomfield.
of years," said director Sperling.
The conversation that started it all took
Although the words in the play come from
place more than a year ago, Rosenberg
anecdotes
and insights made by the teens in ses-
said. "I asked Imam El-Amim, 'What do
sions
that
took
place starting in September, the
you think would really lead to peace
written
dialogue
as well as its structure and con-
between our communities,'" she remem-
tinuity,
were
the
work of Ann Arbor-based
bered. "He said, 'If our communities
playwright Rachel Urist.
knew they had the same father, Abraham,
"It worked well because these are kids who
and knew the two sons buried their father
wanted
to break down barriers," Sperling said.
together, that would be a start.'"
"But
I've
seen other projects like this get bogged
According to Genesis 25:9, Abraham's
down
when
there's no professional playwright."
two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried their
Urist,
who
has been writing plays for 25
father "in the cave of Machpelah."
Ariela Lis and Harold Adam Harris practice their lines for the "Children of
years, added teen playwriting workshops about
"How was it possible, after all that went Abraham," the play they helped write, with actor Araz HaShemi, background.
15 years ago. A three-time recipient of the
on, after Abraham had banished Ishmael
Individual
Creative Artist Award from the
and his mother, Hagar, that the two
Michigan
Council
for the Arts, she is the winner
one major and numerous minor roles. A four-person
brothers could get together?" Rosenberg
of
four
national
playwriting
competitions. With a grant
choir provides musical transitions.
said. 'And, if these two could make peace, why should
from the Michigan. Council for the Humanities, she
Rosenberg is the producer; the director is Mosaic
we, who are all descended from Abraham, not make
wrote Shtetl Tales, which was turned into a musical,
founder and CEO Rick Sperling.
peace as well?"
The nonprofit theater, which has an annual budget of then produced and directed in New York.
The daughter of a rabbi, she most recently produced
nearly $1 million, moved this fall to the campus of the
a
Purim
shpiel for the Hebrew Day School of Ann
More Than A Play
University Prep High School, a charter school located
Arbor.
near

but
not
affiliated
with

Wayne
State
The Children ofAbraham project begins with the play,
"Just as Brenda feels compelled to put her energies
University.
which is performed with minimal sets. Joining with
together for Israel and for peace, to me the two are inex-
A 45-minute breakout discussion session using
Rosenberg to produce the play is the 11-year-old
orably linked," Urist said. "In addition to reading the
trained facilitators takes place after each performance.
Mosaic Youth Theatre, which trains young people,
papers
and worrying — this is something constructive
It's an integral part of the project, Rosenberg said.
mostly from the city of Detroit, in all aspects of theater,
to
do."
Also part of the project is a workbook that will allow
from writing and production to acting and singing.
The Children of Abraham project has a lengthy group
communities and schools to duplicate the process of
The cast consists of four teen-age actors, each playing

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