New York, April 15, 2011—OneVoice Palestine (OVP) collaborated with Inad Theater and Said Zarzar, a young professional actor, to launch an original play, entitled “The Dreams of Said, the Storyteller.” OVP and the theater company plan to bring the play to young audiences across the West Bank, inspiring them to dream big and define their future.
The play, loosely based on the classic fairytale "Sleeping Beauty," takes an unexpected turn when the princess wakes up in the year 2018, seven years after Israel's occupation has ended and a peace agreement signed between both nations.
The first performance took place in the West Bank village of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, on April 2, enthralling 100 young teenagers. OneVoice (OV) caught up with Said shortly after his first performance to ask him a few questions.
OV: How long have you been involved in storytelling as an artist? What drew you to OneVoice's storytelling project?
SZ: I've worked in theater as an actor for roughly five years and before that I participated in open days and workshops for children, which incorporated well-known stories. Stories have played a big role in my life. When I was asked to create “The Dreams of Said, the Storyteller,” I felt the positive energy inside me as an actor telling me to accept.
I started writing the script along with Inad Theater Director Khaled Yousef Massou. It was amazing because once Khaled and I started writing, we never stopped. The ideas were taking us to a different world and I started to live in the world I created, really putting myself into the script. And now, after this experience, I can say, I love being a storyteller. I feel like I’m helping children to dream of a better future.
OV: What is your vision for Palestine’s future?
SZ: While some of my thoughts on Palestine's future might be negative and pessimistic, they are outweighed by my big dreams for a better Palestine. I believe that my dreams can become a reality, which was a main focus of the script. If I close my eyes now and imagine Palestine in 2018, I'd like to see the separation wall torn down and no more checkpoints scattered across the occupied Palestinian territories. I imagine myself driving to Jerusalem to visit my relatives and praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
I wish to see new generations of Palestinians growing up in a healthy, non-violent community, where they can have a normal, creative childhood, which any child in the world should have. I wish them a better childhood than the one my generation had.
OV: How does storytelling play a role in Palestinian state building?
SZ: Storytellers around the world can allow people to dream and help them to get back the hope of a sovereign, free Palestinian state. I believe in dreams. They are like a thread between fact and fiction, and our role is to believe in those dreams of what our beloved country, Palestine, could be, and work to make them a reality.
OV: What is the relevance of remembering the past, while looking to the future?
SZ: In my opinion, wallowing in the past is distracting. We could cry forever over the past, but never build our state for the future. It is too easy to dwell on the past, sitting in our houses, talking about 1948, and what happened, and how ugly it was, but then we will forget what's more important: our future. Yes, our history is painful and devastating, but do we want it to continue? Of course not! This is why I use history as a base for the script only; to show how we can turn the difficulties we have faced into a better future.
OV: How has the audience response been so far? Are you happy with the reactions?
SZ: I feel very proud of the play and the responses thus far. The students were very interested in the whole play. More importantly, I've seen the dreams and wishes in their eyes, and know that some scenes truly touched their hearts. After my first performance, we had a discussion workshop with the students, and one of the girls made me cry. We brought her on stage and asked her about her dreams of Palestine in the future. Unable to retrain her emotions, she said, “I hope to be able to go to the sea with my family, freely." She then broke into tears.
OV: How can this activity help people find their role in ending the conflict?
SZ: We must transfer the positive energy to the younger generation. Palestine’s youth holds the key to a better future. All they have to do is to believe in their dreams and live them.