Sunday, March 12 through Saturday, April 1
Most performances at 7:30 pm but check schedule
The Fourth Street Theatre – 83 East Fourth St. (between Bowery and Second Ave)
Note: The first preview was originally scheduled for Saturday March 11 but has since changed to Sunday March 12
Experience French Algiers on the brink of revolution, and witness what happens when three Arab brothers vie for the love of the same woman. Written by noted playwright, Betty Shamieh ( The Black Eyed, Roar, Fit for a Queen) and directed by May Adrales ( Vietgone, Luce).
The Strangest is a truly singular theatrical event that invites audiences to experience the centuries old live performance tradition of Arabic storytelling that predates Shakespeare, and to enter into a world that most American theater goers might otherwise never be able to access.
The Strangest invites audiences into an immersive theatrical experience in which they enter a traditional Arab storytelling café, where for centuries masters of the oral tradition wove tales of intrigue. The Strangest is an absurdist murder mystery loosely inspired by the unnamed Arab killed in Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger. Experience French Algiers on the brink of revolution, and witness three Arab brothers vie for the love of the same woman. Their bitter rivalry ends only when one is gunned down by a French stranger. Written by Betty Shamieh ( The Black Eyed, Roar, Fit for a Queen) and directed by May Adrales ( Vietgone, Luce).
French Algeria was a hybrid of Eastern and Western cultures that fascinated some of the most important writers and artists of the twentieth century, including Albert Camus, Jean Genet, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1848, Algeria was made part of France. It was the first colonization of an Arab country since the Crusades, and hundreds of thousands of Europeans immigrated and settled there. The Algerian War for Independence began over a hundred years later in 1954. The Strangest evokes that cultural hybridity, mixing oral Arab storytelling techniques with Western theatrical practices of multi-character scenes in a way that illuminates the strengths and similarities of both those performance traditions.
In 2011, writer Betty Shamieh traveled to Aleppo, Syria to conduct research on storytelling cafes for The Strangest. Syria was chosen rather than Algeria not only because Shamieh understood the Levantine dialect, but also because it ironically was deemed safer and less likely to be touched by the events of the Arab Spring. She and her team arrived in Aleppo during the week when the first anti-government protests began. Not only were they able to document these legendary storytelling sites that are no longer standing, or have ceased to be cultural centers for the first time in centuries, but also a society on the verge of civil war and self-destruction.
The Strangest is a truly singular theatrical event that invites audiences to experience the centuries old live performance tradition of Arabic storytelling that predates Shakespeare, and to enter into a world that most New Yorkers might otherwise never be able to access, particularly at this time where it is much more difficult for Arab artists to perform in America.
“As a child of Arab immigrants who became an American playwright, I was always fascinated by the idea of Middle Eastern storytelling cafes, where a person could grab a cup of joe and listen to the live performances of the best storytellers in that community retelling fables and myths from The Arabian Nights. It never occurred to me that the cafes were segregated all-male spaces. I wanted to infiltrate these storytelling cafes. I had been commissioned to write a stage adaptation of The Stranger andupon revisiting Camus’ text; I realized adapting a cerebral novel wasn’t my thing. I also realized I had missed that the novel is about more than a weird narrator who shot a man he didn’t know without feeling remorse, or a representation of an abstract concept called Existentialism. At its core, it is about a colonist killing a native in a deeply racist environment, where desensitization of self and dehumanization of others are necessary ingredients for survival. Thus, the concept for The Strangest was born. I wanted to tell the other side of the story, evoking the wildness of the world that was French Algiers” said playwright, Betty Shamieh.
The company of The Strangest is Jacqueline Antaramian (as Umm; Homeland, Madam Secretary), Andrew Guilarte (as Nemo; The Invisible Hand (Kansas City Repertory Theatre)), Juri Henly-Cohn (as Nader; Inventing Avi), Roxanna Hope Radja (as Layali; Frost/Nixon; After the Fall (Broadway)), Louis Sallan (as Nounu; Blue Bloods), Alok Tewari (as Abu; The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater) ; Awake and Sing! (Public/NAATCO), and Brendan Titley (as Gun; MacBeth (Broadway); As You Like It (Public Theater)).
Under the direction of May Adrales, The Strangest will feature Scenic Design by Daniel Zimmerman, Costume Design by Becky Bodurtha, Lighting Design by Aaron Porter, and New Music & Sound Design by Nathan A. Roberts & Charles Coes. The production manager is Jay Sterkel and the stage manager is Megan Sprowls.
This production of The Strangest is produced by Semitic Root with creative producer Allison Bressi, Executive ProducerParadox Productions NY, LLC, and general managed by Kaitlin Boland.
The performance schedule for The Strangest is:
|Sunday, March 12||5:00 PM (Preview)|
|Monday, March 13||7:30 PM (Preview)|
|Tuesday, March14||7:30 PM (Preview)|
|Wednesday, March 15||7:30 PM (OPENING NIGHT)|
|Friday, March 17||7:30 PM|
|Saturday, March 18||7:30 PM|
|Monday, March 20||7:30 PM|
|Tuesday, March 21||7:30 PM|
|Thursday, March 23||7:30 PM|
|Friday, March 24||7:30 PM|
|Saturday, March 25||7:30 PM|
|Sunday, March 26||5:00 PM|
|Tuesday, March 28||7:30 PM|
|Thursday, March 30||7:30 PM|
|Friday, March 31||7:30 PM|
|Saturday, April 1||2:00 PM|