Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Press Release, “Passages of Martin Luther King” to be first play on King performed in Arabic
March 18, 2011

Stanford’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute will collaborate with the Palestinian National Theater, Al Hakawati, to produce the first play about Martin Luther King, Jr., to be performed in Arabic. “Passages of Martin Luther King,” written by Stanford scholar Clayborne Carson, will open on March 22 for four performances in East Jerusalem before moving to various West Bank venues through April 5.

The Palestinian version of Carson’s play will be directed by Kamal El Basha and features eight Palestinian actors portraying King, his parents, his wife, Coretta, and other historical figures, such as Malcolm X and President John F. Kennedy. Six American singers, including four with Stanford ties, will also participate in the production, performing church and freedom songs associated with King’s life. Stanford alum and Drama Department lecturer Aleta Hayes (’91) will serve as the play’s choreographer. September Penn, the wife of a former Knight journalism fellow at Stanford, Ivan Penn, is musical director for a choir that includes P. Michael Williams, Steven Wilson, and former Stanford undergraduates Ré Phillips (’10) and Chelsi Butler (’09).  Phillips, Butler, and Penn also participated in the National Theatre of China’s 2007 international premiere of Passages in Beijing in 2007. The play was first performed in 1993 by Stanford’s Drama Department.

Before leaving for Jerusalem, Carson expressed hope that “Passages” will “bring King’s universal message of nonviolence to Palestinian activists who are currently engaged in their own nonviolent struggle.” As during his visit last year, Carson has scheduled discussions with Palestinian proponents of nonviolence. “Given recent events in North African and the Middle East, I can hardly imagine a more appropriate time for this collaboration between the King Institute and the Palestinian National Theater.”

The American Consulate General in Jerusalem is helping to arrange Carson’s talks and co-sponsoring the Palestinian production of his play as part of its effort to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between Palestinians and Americans. Speaking about the program, U.S. Consulate General Public Affairs Officer Frank Finver said, “The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem is proud to have sponsored this unique and ambitious cultural exchange program with Al Hakawati Theater, and we are honored to host Dr. Carson again.  His visit is timely, given the rapid pace of change in the region, and we hope that through performances of his play and discussions with Palestinian audiences, we will all deepen our understanding of the benefits of nonviolence and the possibilities of achieving change through peaceful means."

Opening night of "Passages of Martin Luther King" is March 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Al Hakawati Theater.  In addition to the performances at Al Hakawati Theater in East Jerusalem, “Passages” is scheduled to be staged in Jenin on March 27, Nablus on March 28-29, Bethlehem on March 30-31, Ramallah on April 3, Hebron on April 5.

Contact information
King Institute at Stanford University: Regina Covington (650) 723-2092

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