Supplemental Materials for Say Word! > From Tel Aviv to Ramallah
Rachel Havrelock is an assistant professor of Jewish Studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she is also co-founder of the UIC Jewish-Muslim Initiative. Rachel began her graduate studies at Tel Aviv University and Bir Zeit University in Ramallah and completed her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. Studying and living in the Middle East informed her forthcoming book, River Jordan: The Mythic History of a Dividing Line, as well as the script of From Tel Aviv to Ramallah. In addition to From Tel Aviv to Ramallah, Rachel has worked with Yuri and Sharif to create the hip-hop play Soundtrack City about daily life in contemporary urban America. The three are currently at work on a new show – The Making of a Human Beatbox.
Yuri Lane was born on a small island in Holland. His parents, a painter and a violinist, soon moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district to ride the '70s counter-culture current. Raised in the Haight, Yuri learned rhythm by osmosis and began to breathe beats.
In the '80s, Yuri started breakdancing and teaching moves at middle school parties. He discovered his true passion in a sixth grade math class where Yuri made sounds to compensate for his lack of skill in arithmetic. When his teacher ordered him to "turn off the radio," Yuri knew that he was on to something.
Yuri spent his teenage years on stage at theaters like San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater while attending high school at the San Francisco School of the Arts. After finishing a theater degree at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, Yuri returned to San Francisco to pursue mime, improvisation and alternative theatrical forms. During the dot-com boom, Yuri found himself as "the geek" in several local and national commercials as well as in TV episodes.
As San Francisco's boom went bust, Yuri returned to theater and began developing his one-man human beatbox musical, Soundtrack City. Yuri created Soundtrack City by performing one scene at a time at clubs, bars, coffee shops, and small theaters of San Francisco. The full-length production of Soundtrack City debuted in November 2001, with runs in San Francisco and New York in 2002 and a run in Chicago in 2005. Soundtrack City chronicled the transformation of urban neighborhoods during gentrification.
With his partner Sharif Ezzat and his wife Rachel Havrelock, Yuri created "the coolly extraordinary" From Tel Aviv to Ramallah, a hip-hop play that tackles the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [Michael Phillips, "'Beatbox Journey' a clear-eyed look at Mideast issues," Chicago Tribune, Dec. 2, 2004.] From Tel Aviv to Ramallah steers clear of ideology in order to show the daily lives of young people during the Second Intifada. From Tel Aviv to Ramallah had its world premiere at Theater J in Washington DC in 2003, where it was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best new play. The show enjoyed runs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore and Atlanta. It toured across the US at theaters, campuses, and peace events. International venues include Helsinki, London and Jerusalem.
Beatbox Harmonica is Yuri's extraordinary talent, which the world began to experience with the birth of YouTube. In fall 2007, his beatbox harmonica video became the number one video on YouTube. This led to live beatbox performances at Google parties around the world, several commercials and the formation of a YouTube community bound by beatbox.
When the economic crash led to a slowdown in sponsored appearances, Yuri began work on MeTube, a personal journey through the world of YouTube celebrity that confronts issues of authenticity, originality, and self-image through beatbox and live video performance. MeTube premiered at the Chicago Humanities Festival in spring 2010. Yuri hopes to touch just a fraction of his 15 million (but who's counting) YouTube fans with a live show in realtime.
Sharif Ezzat is an Egyptian-American multimedia artist based in San Francisco. He became fascinated by the narrative and interactive capacity of electronic media while attending classes in the University of Iowa writer's program. Working across academic departments, he pursued an interdisciplinary program combining political science, literature, philosophy, and electronic arts courses. He moved to Chicago in 1998 and began working for Information Resources, the leading provider of CPG sales data, an experience that sharpened his information design skills.
Since moving to San Francisco in 2001, Sharif has worked with advertising, retail, corporate and nonprofit clients in a wide variety of electronic media, from web sites and DVDs to interactive kiosks and installations. He continues to develop the artistic dimensions of his work through many collaborations and participation in several international exhibitions. His work has been featured in Adbusters, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the premiere collection from the Electronic Literaure Organization. Sharif has toured extensively with human beatbox artist Yuri Lane, providing multimedia visuals for Yuri's theatrical and musical performances. Each year he dedicates a portion of his time to helping produce the Arab Film Festival in the Bay Area, providing identity, print, web, and motion graphics expertise. Visit Sharif's personal site at sharifezzat.com.
By Rachel Havrelock, Writer and Director
From Tel Aviv to Ramallah is a meditation on a dividing line. The dividing line in question is the Green Line, a militarized boundary that separates Israel from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. While the play specifically addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it also speaks to the boundaries, visible and invisible, of cities all over the world that divide groups of people and serve as oppressive barriers. The divide between Palestinians and Israelis is represented by an invisible border at center stage that is navigated in multiple ways during the course of the show. One side of the stage is Ramallah, the Palestinian city in the West Bank where the character, Khalid, has opened an internet café called Palestine.net. On the other side is Tel Aviv, the Israeli city where the character, Amir, works as a motorcycle delivery boy by day and aspiring superstar DJ by night. The play shuttles back and forth during a day in their parallel lives. Rather than politics or ideology, From Tel Aviv to Ramallah focuses on the everyday existence of young people amidst the conflict. The two characters are conceived as Hip Hop manifestations of the brothers, Ishmael and Isaac, the founding fathers of Islam and Judaism who spent most of their lives separated from one another yet came together to bury their father, Abraham.
Hip Hop informs the medium and the message. From Tel Aviv to Ramallah relies on beatbox as a device for portraying people as well as places. Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and each character has an identifying soundtrack generated live by actor and human beatbox, Yuri Lane. Video artist Sharif Ezzat simultaneously projects kinetic visuals that serve as ever-shifting sets for the characters. As Sharif's visuals are synched live to Yuri's beats, an artistic dialogue transpires between an Arab-American and a Jewish-American artist. While From Tel Aviv to Ramallah acknowledges the depth of the divide between Israelis and Palestinians and the hard realities of occupation, it also envisions the way in which shared youth cultures such as Hip Hop (alive and flourishing in Tel Aviv and Ramallah as you can hear in the pre-show music) can serve as a potential bridge.
April: University of Wisconsin; March: Colorado State; University of Denver; February: Dickinson College; Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Community College; Lieds Art Center in Lincoln, Nebraska; January: Limmud Conference, New York
September: Lehigh University, Pennsylvania; October: Apollo Theater, New York; May: Dayla, Jerusalem, Israel; April: University of Illinois at Chicago; Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, IL.; March: Buskirk Chumley Theater, Bloomington, IN; Boston University; January: Northwestern University
September: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; August: Urban Arts Festival, Kiasma Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki, Finland; July: Washington D.C. Hip-Hop Theatre Festival; Hands of Peace Chicago – conference of Israeli & Palestinian teens; June: New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival; May: San Francisco Hip-Hop Theater Festival and Sonoma State University; April: Gel Conference, New York City; Loyola University, Chicago; Passage Theater, Trenton, New Jersey; University of Massachusetts; University of Delaware; March: Cleveland JCC, Cayahuga Community College, Oberlin College, University of Chicago, University of Southern California.; February: Ars Nova Theater, New York City and College of Du Page; January: Viaduct Theater, Chicago
December: Limmud Conference, Nottingham, England and Viaduct Theater; November: Makor Center, NYC, Viaduct Theater, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; October: Makor Center, NYC and Hyper-Hyper Room, Rotterdam, Netherlands.; September: Around the Coyote Arts Festival, Chicago; July: Yuri Lane tours California with Soundtrack City, a bar and club beatbox show; May: Sold-out show in the three hundred-seat theater at the new San Francisco JCC. Nominated for the Charles; MacArthur Award for best new play by the Helen Hayes Awards, Washington DC.; April: Viaduct Theater, Chicago; March: JCC, Atlanta, three sold-out performances; February: Metro Detroit JCC, West Bloomfield, Michigan. Performed with King Solomon’s Languages, Yuri Lane's children's show
December: Makor at the 92nd Street Y, New York City; 12 Miles West Theater, Mont Clair, New Jersey; November: World Premiere of From Tel Aviv to Ramallah at Theater J in Washington DC, a three hundred-seat theater at the DC JCC. Ari Roth, Artistic Director; September-October: Workshop at Spanganga Theater in the Mission District of San Francisco. The one hundred-seat theater was sold out for three of its four week run. Sean Kelly, Producer. Campus performance at the University of California, Berkeley; June: New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival, P.S. 122