Nov 272013

Two friends sit in a study, sipping brandy. Both are intellectuals; one is a dissident, while the other has become a collaborator. Summarizing the state of television, one of the men laments, “Nothing but sterility and intrigues.” It’s a fitting description for this production of Protest, as Ambassador Theater presents an intellectually intriguing – if not emotionally satisfying – take on a modern classic. Protest is the final event of the 2013 Mutual Inspirations Festival, celebrating the life and work of artist-dissident Václav Havel, and the final play in “Havel’s Trilogy.” Featuring Havel’s most lasting contribution to the theater, the partly autobiographical character of Ferdinand VanÄ›k became a national symbol. InProtest, Vanek (Michael Crowley) goes to visit his old friend Stanek (Ivan Zizek) – don’t worry, the similiarity in name is intentional. Where Vanek was recently jailed by the authorities for his political views, former comrade Stanek has reached an accord with the government and found himself a comfortable position writing for television. The two men mirror each other, each viewing the other as an object lesson in might-have-beens. Stanek wants Vanek’s help with a tricky political situation, hoping that his politically active friend will be willing to take all the risks….To Read More


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Nov 212013

Vaclav Havel’s Protest Tackles the Dangers of Conformity

Ambassador Theater, founded in Washington, DC five years ago to raise cultural awareness and open cultural dialogue on the international level, has brought to the stage an innovative production of Vaclav Havel’s Protest. The production is part of theMutual Inspirations Festival, an annual Czech embassy sponsored exploration of the works of important Czech artists. Havel—a playwright and human rights advocate repeatedly jailed for dissent—was a pivotal force in Czechoslavakia’s Velvet Revolution and became the Czech Republic’s first president.

Protest, the final play in Havel’s Vanek Trilogy written in the mid 1970s is, like the other short one-acts, semi-autobiographical. Ferdinand Vanek, Havel’s alter ego, has just been released from prison and is summoned to the house of his old friend, Stanek, who once was an idealist but now works for the government as a writer for state television. Stanek boasts about his garden—he has managed to triple the growth of magnolia trees, since moving in—and presses liquor, peanuts, and a pair of comfortable slippers on Vanek, as if anxious to convert Vanek into a version of himself—comfortable and well provided for. Stanek wants Vanek to be impressed with his lifestyle or at least approve of the choices he’s made, perhaps even pity him for the kinds of compromises he must make in his job and the kinds of people he must surround himself with. Vanek remains noncommittal, cool, and removed.

Under Gail Humphries Mardirosian’s thoughtful direction, two female characters have been added to the cast, Vankova and Stankova, who mirror the interactions and utter the same lines as the men, often simultaneously. The addition is important. We see a woman in the role of courageous human rights advocate, just released from prison; a women, also, in the role of government collaborator.

Jonathan Rushbrook’s set—two raised platforms at opposite ends of the room, with the audience seated at tables in between—helps build a sense of complexity and movement into what might otherwise be a talk-heavy, static play. The four characters switch sides periodically, meet in the middle, and change up into different couplings. Mike Crowley (Vanek) and Sissel Bakken (Vankova) time their lines perfectly, speaking in seamless tandem. Ivan Zizek (Stanek) gracefully matches his lines to Hanna Bondarewska’s Stankova. All are mesmerizingly convincing.

At opposite ends of the room, Stanek and his female counterpart Stankova question Vanek and Vankova about their current activities. At times it seems they may be informing for the government; Stankova inserts a piece of paper into a typewriter at one point and types up Vankova’s answers, as a prison official might do. Yet Stanek and Stankova praise their guests as heroic, laud them for carrying out important work, and bemoan the constraints of conformism their own jobs impose.

Well into the play, Stanek/Stankova reveal the true reason they have invited Vanek/Vankova over. Stanek/Stankova’s daughter’s fiance, a popular musician critical of the government, has been arrested. They have tried through their government connections to get the young man released, without success.

As it turns out, Vanek (and Vankova) have just such a petition already written. Surely their hosts would like to sign it. Stanek (and his female counterpart, Stankova) consider carefully. As they approach the conclusion that they should sign the petition, music (by Jerzy Sapieyevski) swells, triumphant, heroic, resolute. Then begins a ludicrous back-pedaling by Stanek and Stankova, accompanied by a kind of dirge. They twist logic so furiously that their main reason for not signing is that it will look bad for Vanek if they sign; the government will say Vanek forced them into it.

Once they have established themselves as unwilling to sign, news arrives that the musician has been released. Stanek and Stankova smugly conclude that if the petition had gone out, the government would have gotten its back up and would have resisted releasing him. Your kind, they conclude—transforming into agents of repression set on destroying morale and squashing dissent—sometimes do more harm than good.

Without meaning to, Stanek/Stankova have become the oppressors—not by writing for the government TV station per se, but by being compelled, in conversation with Vanek/Vankova, to defend their own choices and privileges.

Protest is a fascinating study of how, in accommodating oneself to the system and refusing to take personal risks, one can easily become, not simply neutral, but an oppressor, not through ill intent but as a by-product of self-justification. Ultimately, the “Protest” of the title is an ironic reference to Stanek/Stankova’s long-winded and tortuous refusal to sign the petition.

The message is an apt one for any era. As human beings, we are always balancing risk, personal gain, and a commitment to our values. In present-day Washington, with its aggressive war on journalistic leaks, its prosecution of whistleblowers, broad surveillance, and an increasingly militarized response to dissent, Havel’s incisive analysis and unbending example are especially needed.


Posted January 16, 2014
Sep 242013

‘Antiwords’ Inspired by Václav Havel’s ‘Audience’ by Eliza Anna Falk

Posted on September 24, 2013 by

Eliza Anna Falk.

Havel’s ultimate goal as a playwright was to appeal to his spectators, to provoke them into self-reflection and encourage them to change. His main concern was for human identity and its survival in the oppressive environment, including the globalized modern world. “Will the Czech actresses outdo the legend? Will they reach a state on the edge, recalling Havel’s motif of alienation?” These are some of the questions which had been asked about the performance by the theatre critics and educated enthusiasts of Havel’s works. What about an average American theatre goer with rudimentary knowledge of the Czech playwright’s legacy and a minimal awareness of what it is like to live in an oppressive state? What would Antiwords, based on Václav Havel’s play Audience, tell them about the author and his culture, how would the performance connect with them and their 21st century context?

Last Saturday, September 21, 2013, at the opening of Antiwords, presented by the Ambassador Theatre in partnership with the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the 2013 Mutual Inspirations Festival, I had my American friends sitting to my left and the Eastern European ones on the right and was eagerly awaiting their reactions and impressions. What If Havel himself was in the audience, I thought? What would he feel and say?

Several minutes into the play I was sure that Havel would laugh, as we all did during the opening scene reminiscent of the communist ‘mise en scene.’ Imagine two identically dressed and drearily looking actresses slowly walking onto the almost bare stage, carrying oversized paper mache heads under one arm and shopping bags containing beer bottles and jugs under the other. The laughter erupts when Čechová and Krivankova, facing the audience, place the beer bottles between their upper thighs and leave them protruding, open them with beer openers hanging from their necks latch- key style, and start pouring the beer into jugs using gentle but suggestive pelvis thrusts. What do we think we are looking at? The association is instant – two drunks urinating in public; image slightly shocking, but unexpectedly funny. Mind you, we had been warned. The director’s Peter Bohac warning had been read out to us before the performance – “If you have anything against drinking, leave now”.

The laughter continues when the oversized heads and men’s jackets transform the female actresses into the characters from Audience – Vanek and the Foreman. Audience, written in 1975 belongs to The Vanek Trilogy, three partly autobiographical absurdist plays bound by a character of Havel’s alter-ego Ferdinand Vanek, a dissident writer and intellectual. In Audience, Vanek, just like Havel in real life, is forced to work at a brewery, rolling barrels. The absurd starts when his boss, the brew master who earns brownie points with authorities by reporting on his dissident subordinates, calls him into his office and offers him a better job in return for inventing and admitting to political activities. At the end of a long and repetitive verbal exchange driven by the foreman who keeps knocking down beers like lemonade and forcing his reluctant subordinate to drink with him, Vanek, despite his apparent timidity, refuses to participate in “something I have always found repugnant” and asserts his identity and values despite all odds.

Miřenka Čechová and Jindriska Krivankova. Photo courtesy of Michal Hančovský.Miřenka Čechová and Jindriska Krivankova. Photo courtesy of Michal Hančovský.

MiÅ™enka ÄŒechová and Sivan Eldar from the Spitfire Company, the creators ofAntiwords, courageously abandoned the play’s dialog and conventional acting and successfully transformed the play into a physical spectacle with the help of music, dance, movement and grotesque props, not to mention beer drinking, an ingrained element of Czech culture, society and history. Drawing on Havel’s love of the absurd and the visual and his dependence on humor as an indispensable tool of survival, they created a challenging and entertaining version of the conversation between the oppressor and the oppressed. Displaying only a few carefully selected fragments of the play’s dialog on the screen the directors decided to place their trust into the actors’ bodies and the oversized heads to convey the emotions, messages, moods and behaviors of the characters and the situations. The effect is brilliant. The highly skilled actors alternate between the characters, and although looking identical, are able to transform instantly as if by magic. In Antiwords, words are spurious; movement and dance combined with music or silence are sufficient to entertain and provoke the audience to react – even those only slightly familiar with the spectacle’s background and context… To Read More


Sep 202013

Vaclav Havel tribute performances start this weekend

September 20, 2013 By 

Václav Havel is well known for having been a political dissident, but he was also a well-regarded playwright in his time. His writings were banned by the Communists in the ’70s and he became leader of the revolution that drove them out of power. In 1993, he was elected president of the newly independent Czech Republic.

Vaclav HavelVaclav Havel 

To honor the man, his writings and all he has done for the Czech Republic, the Mutual Inspirations Festival is focusing on Havel in a month-long celebration through theatrical performances, film screenings, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions.

The Mutual Inspirations Festival was created in 2009 by the Embassy of the Czech Republic, focusing on the mutual inspirations between Czech and American cultures and featuring each year an extraordinary Czech personality who has greatly influenced and inspired others through his or her work. Past honorees have been Garrigue Masaryk, Antonín Dvorák and Miloš Forman.


The theater offerings kick off at the Ambassador Theater at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21 with the Spitfire Company’s preview ofAntiwords, a story that draws inspiration from the works of Havel, especially Audience. The play is directed by Petr Bohac and performed by prominent Czech physical theater actresses Mirenka Cechová and Jindriška Krivánková, and appears at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.


Hanna Bondarewska, founder and artistic director of Ambassador Theater, was a great admirer of Havel, and in December of 2011 was this close to contacting him about working with the theater.

“I had been thinking about Havel since I started a theater and I was thinking about getting in touch with him to invite him on our Honorary Board. I remember when I was traveling to Poland for Christmas, I already planned my visit to Czech Republic to get in touch with him and while on the plane I learned that Vatslav  Havel had passed away,” Bondarewska says. “I was devastated since I admired him so much as a statesman and writer and humanitarian.

I had books with the translations of his plays and I was already thinking about Audience and Protest.”

It was Gail Humphries Mardirosian, chair of the department of performing arts at American University, who was the main force behind the Mutual Inspiration performance, connecting Bondarewska to the Czech Embassy and Czech performers.

“Gail told me about the festival and immediately introduced me to wonderful woman, Ms. Barbara Karpetova from the Czech Embassy. Then I met Mirenka and that’s how our adventure with Havel began.” …to Read more


Jul 232013





The Third Breast

As The Third Breast opens, the cast sings, accompanied by acoustic guitars, tambourines, and a flute, as if around a mid-summer bonfire, and they invite the audience into the fold of their valley “commune” through the offer of libations. It seems as if one is walking into a 1969 love-fest, yet the audience leaves feeling as alienated from the world as readers emerging from a George Orwell novel, which is the point.

Eva (Sissel Bakken) illuminates the commune—she is the personification of the peace around which it sustains itself. Thomas (Christopher Henley), her former lover, choreographs its on-goings as the architect willing to do anything to preserve it, including keeping Eva sainted in the eyes of the members. Together they pull newcomer George (Matthew Ingraham), an attractive, young drifter, into a twisted love as they all try to reconcile what the third breast, which quite literally manifests on Eva’s side below her left breast, symbolizes to them, their relationships, and the commune.

(l-r) Sissel Bakken, Matthew Ingraham and Christopher Henley)(l-r) Sissel Bakken, Matthew Ingraham and Christopher Henley) 

The breast begins as a discoloration and grows into an unsightly anomaly that makes Eva feel monstrous. Thomas too fears what people will think and, more importantly, wants to keep her as the commune’s center piece. Eva seeks comfort from several men as she contemplates suicide until Thomas goes to George, who has the right mix of kindness and ruthlessness that may help Eva out of her despair. The breast fascinates George and becomes a thing of worship as if Eva were a Goddess out of India mythology. As they make love for the first time, he unwraps a bandage around Eva’s torso to hold and kiss it tenderly. Still, both Eva and Thomas worry about how it will affect the commune as a whole. The other men Eva had sought comfort from did not embrace it as George did. Eva, fearing they will betray her secret, declares that they must be killed.

In a subtle, excellent power play, Thomas (and Eva) puppeteer George into the role of murderer. Because he loves Eva–because he worships the third breast–he agrees. It is an act from which the free spirited, kind George never returns as — emboldened by the power of the murder –takes control of the commune, turning it into a military-like camp where members are little better than prisoners.

While Bakken doesn’t show as much of the radiating, magnetic charisma of Eva, her long, flowing blonde hair and stature and her earthiness fill Eva with a relatable, palpable vulnerability that makes her trajectory—from Goddess to murderer—all that more sickening.

Ingraham as George is kind and lighthearted. There is a certain natural buoyancy and sweet naïveté about the actor that makes George’s ruthlessness a bit hard to believe, especially as he descends into the commune dictator, though Ingraham does play it well.

Henley’s Thomas is the most nuanced performance of the show. His quest for peace and his use of power set the stage for George’s reign of terror, yet, as he articulates that “all obligation comes with handcuffs”  you understand that living with and balancing the dichotomies of humanity is an art form. Thomas is sly and suspect from the opening, so his support of Eva’s grand plan to murder those who know about and rejected her third breast and his coercion of George does not surprise. Yet, in the aftermath, he is the voice of a sanity and reason.

Watching a utopia, of sorts, devolve into a dystopia isn’t new – the concept has long been present in literature – but the catalyst, the third breast, is genius. It is something both serious and almost comical, giving credence to the idea that fighting, warring, arguing, terror, etc…have been started over less. While it is literal in the play and poses a potential health threat to Eva–what if it were a tumor?–it is symbolic of a greater stain on humanity. It cripples Eva with fear; it drives George to obsession; it upsets Thomas’ perfect commune. It is easily removable, yet murder seems more palatable to Eva, George, and Thomas, each of whom seem to derive power from it.

Polish playwright Ireneusz Iredynski, long known in his homeland, died in 1985 and much of his work is not easily found in America, yet The Third Breast’s themes are timeless across countries. He illustrates that righteousness and freedom turn to obsession and captivity when mixed with want of power, vanity, and sex. They play just as well against the WWII era in which he was born as they do against Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan.

The real star of the show is the direction by Hanna Bondarewska. The atmosphere she creates–shading something akin to Woodstock into an Orwellian nightmare–fully envelops the audience. She presents complex ideas boldly and gives a World Premiere to a playwright who has little name recognition in the US. It is a risky move, but well worth it as Iredynski is someone I, personally, want to see more from, feeling as if I have missed an important voice in the literary canon up until now.

The Third Breast is a captivating look at humankind. A show worth seeing. But, be prepared for darkness.

The Third Breast by Ireneusz Iredynski, Translated by Sylvia Daneel, Directed by Hanna Bondarewska. Featuring Sissel Bakken, Christopher Henley, and Matthew Ingraham. Set Design: Antonio Petrov. Costume Design: Sigrid Johannesdottir.  Music: Paul Oehlers, Sound: Paul Oehlers and George Gordon, Visual Effects: George Gordon . Produced by Ambassador Theatre .

Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale

Highly Recommended
The Third Breast
Closes August 4, 2013
Mead Theatre Lab
at Flashpoint Gallery
916 G Street NW
Washington, DC
2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $35
Thursdays thru Sundays



Jul 182013

In Ambassador Theater’s The Third Breast you are transported from an idyllic commune into a militaristic cult. The harrowing journey is the hallmark of thought-provoking theater….

The cast of 'The Third Breast.' Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

The cast of ‘The Third Breast’: Sissel Bakken, Matthew Ingraham, and Christopher Henley. Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

….The total-immersion experience starts when you walk into the theater…

…The actors who take you on this inexorable journey are top-notch. They are Sissel Bakken (Eva), the spiritual leader; Christopher Henley (Thomas), the commune founder, and Matthew Ingraham (George), a relative newcomer….

…Depending on your interpretation of the play, you’ll want to join too….

To Read More….


Jan 172013

JANUARY 17, 2013 BY 

We admit it – when Artistic Director Hanna Bondarewska sent the Ambassador Theater’s press release for their upcoming performances at Flashpoint Gallery, our email back could be capsulized as “huh?”

See for yourselves how the clever Bondarewska had us begging to know more:

Onstage at 8pm, January 31 and February 1, 2013 at Flashpoint GalleryOnstage at 8pm, January 31 and February 1, 2013 at Flashpoint Gallery 

“Having spared no effort or cost, we present the official start of the year 2013 and a new era in the history of our theater marked with a golden stain on the sheet of History! Our dear ecstatic audience, you shall see in a moment (be patient) the first in a series of new and stunning performances. Ambassador Theater proudly presents the smallest theater troupe in the world, The Little Theatre of the Green Goose!”

Enter Ray Converse, a member of the Green Goose ensemble, to explain:

Ray Converse: “These plays were written in the late 1940s by Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski , a much beloved Polish poet and humorist who is virtually unknown in the U.S.  Galczynski wrote these plays after spending all of World War II as a POW in a German camp [mainly at Stalag XI-A].

“The plays are vignettes that point the audience to the absurdities of life.  Written in the early years after the war, the plays were never performed during his lifetime for two reasons: first, he deliberately wrote the plays so they could not be staged, and second, with the onset of Stalinism in Poland, these plays were found incompatible with government-approved Socialist Realism.

“The first Green Goose performance of any kind was in the Grotesque Puppet Theatre in Cracow in 1955.

“The original intent was to do Green Goose as a staged reading.  After all the author originally did not intend them to be performed.”

DCTS: and yet, you are performing them …

Ambassador Theater's  actor (and puppet) prepare.Ambassador Theater’s actor (and puppet) prepare. 

Ray: “It quickly became clear that a staged-reading would not do justice to Galczynski’s work.  There is too much physicality in these plays for the audience to enjoy them with the artists with scripts in hand.  As a result, the original premise changed to doing a bare-bones production.  Even then, it soon it became apparent that the material needed to become more, a bare-bones production on steroids.”

DCTS: What will the evening be like for the audience?

“The separate plays are strung together with the premise that the actors are part of

a scruffy, semi-inept medieval acting troupe journeying across the country.   (It might be compared to a medieval flash mob.)”

DCTS: Hmm… interesting image.

Ray: “Each of the players has a distinct character and name which they bring to the role when they are not in their stage roles.  At curtain, the players arrive in town during a downpour as a Salvation Army Band led by a pamphlet-selling evangelist, perform their individual plays, pass the hat, and flee the town before the local constabulary can arrest them.

“The humor is slapstick on one level, but also operates on a higher level.”

DCTS: For those who like to know what the plays are about …

Ray: “Two common threads appear in many of these plays.  They play with the idea of what happens if some unplanned random event messes up the universal plan?  Without divulging any secrets, the apple in the Garden of Eden could be too tasty to share?

And, the plays explore the consequences of people feeling too strongly – boredom, loneliness, love.  Devotees of Starbucks coffee will find themselves as the leading character in one of these and will be laughing about it as they exit the theater, looking for a nearby Starbucks.”… read more


Oct 212012

‘Trespassing’ at Ambassador Theater by Jessica Vaughan


Ambassador Theater takes on trespassers and unexpected visitors with two madcap one-acts by Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag.

The first, The Visitor, tells the story of an actress and the policeman who comes to her apartment because a well-known serial killer has said he is coming after her. It’s tense and yet funny as the two discuss justice, fate, acting, and coffee, and wait for him to appear. It becomes clear quickly that all is not as it seems and ends with a fun twist. As the play went on, it was tough to tell if it was a thriller, a comedy, a philosophical treatise, or a farce, but it also didn’t matter. It was fun.

Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) and Ivan Zizek (Mahmud Suliman) in ‘The Visitor.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

The set design by Greg Jackson changes for each one-act, but both sets are sumptuous and beautiful. The Visitor features the artwork of prominent artist Agustin Blazquez. (He is from Cuba, but specializes in Egyptian art). His pieces, including an Egyptian mummy’s case, are complimented by fun things like a gilt stand telephone and a beautiful coffee set. In the second one-act, The Peephole, the set becomes more modern but no less stylish with slightly naughty hieroglyphs on the walls – and a couch set I wish was in my living room.

The Visitor, directed Gail Humphrey Mardirosian, makes full use of the stage and the set since at several points, the actors are sent around the stage searching frantically or hiding out. She keeps the pace up and the tension building admirably. Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) revels in the role of the diva who is not to be cowed but is drawn to the killer and Ivan Zizek as the visitor makes an excellent foil. For the vast majority of the play, they are alone in that apartment and they and the director and the actors work hard to keep the audience mesmerized and involved, and everything moves quickly.

Costume Designer Elizabeth Ennis chose some great pieces. Both plays’ protagonists’ costumes do not disappoint. In The Visitor, Negma Sadiq wears sheer fabrics with endless sparkles and gold. In Peephole, the main character’s more modern wardrobe includes a shiny silver shirt and a fabulous leather jacket. It was obvious a lot of thought went into each character’s wardrobe.

After intermission and the transformation of the set, Hanna Bondarewska takes over as director for the second one-act, The Peephole, which is the story of another famous actor Hasan (Ivan Zizek), as he arrives home to find a murdered woman in his bedroom. He calls his neighbor, the lawyer Husayn (Stephen Shelter or James Randle on alternate dates) who calls a psychiatrist Hasanayn (Rob Weinzimer) and a criminal (Adam R. Adkins) who can take the body away. Why they need both a criminal and a psychiatrist is because the murdered woman keeps disappearing and reappearing throughout the play. Bondarewska also plays the woman in a suitably gory, gorgeous costume.

This one-act got more and more surreal as it went on.The actors just threw themselves into their roles and seemed to relish the zinging one-liners they lobbed at each other – and the possible mental breakdowns happening all over the stage. What was fun though was how it echoed the other play.The evening is called Trespassing, and between the frantic searches, the murderer in the first play and the murdered in the second, and the central role of a telephone, it was fun to see what they included and echoed in each act.

James Randle, Rob Weinzimer, and Ivan Zizek. The cast of ‘The Peephole.’ Photo by Magda Pinkowska.

Lighting Designer Marianne Meadows did a great job, especially with the more surrealThe Peephole. A large part of the plot rested on her design to let us know whether the ghost (real woman? Hallucination?) was there or not. Also, in the first one-act, her warm lighting design complimented the artwork beautifully.

Playwright Alfred Farag was born in the 1950s and wrote dozens of plays still known and studied in Egypt for their dialogue and use of Arabic. Translator Dina Amin has managed to capture some of that joy of language. Both plays had some good exchanges and running jokes, like the psychiatrist answering many queries with, “In your childhood or adolescence…”

The Ambassador Theater International Cultural Center’s mission is to build international cultural awareness and succeeds with these plays, not because they showed us such a different and strange world, but because the world Farag wrote about is so familiar. The laughs work on every level and two stories about famous actors and their insecurities, lawyers, and shrinks are so universal.

If you are Egyptian or American or from any other part of the world you will enjoy these two quirky and funny one-acts. Their universal messages will hit home.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with 15 minute intermission.

Trespassing plays through November 3, 2012 at Ambassador Theater at Mead Theatre Lab’s Flashpoint – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.


Oct 152012

Ambassador Theater’s ‘Trespassing’ by Assistant Director James Randle

When I first heard that Ambassador Theater was mounting Egyptian plays my mind immediately began swimming with imagery: the stereotypical pyramids, but also palms, gold, perfume, mud-brick, mummification, and the hard-beating sun. Egypt is a place and a culture which I have only ever read about – never visited or studied in depth – and that got me terribly excited. What would a play about or set in Egypt be like? What time period were the one-acts from? How much of what I already knew would I find in the text, in the story, in the characters?

Other than a passing familiarity with Egypt’s ancient and classical history, I was ignorant.  I had vague notions of several wars between Israel and Egypt (not to mention the rest of the Arab world), and that the conflict was cooled, but not resolved, by a peace treaty.

Hanna Bondarewska (Negma Sadiq) and Ivan Zizek (Mahmud Suliman) in ‘The Visitor.’ Photo Magda Pinkowska.