Utah-based In The Now Productions releases astute, sensitive, heartfelt film featuring The Gaza Monologues

Childhood is sacred, as one of the young Palestinian contributors to The Gaza Monologues stated. But, the evidence of how that humanitarian principle has been and continues to be denied to the children of Gaza is reiterated and reinforced continuously in the dozens of short monologues that were created by Ashtar Theatre in 2010, after Israel’s protracted bombing campaign of Gaza in 2008 and 2009. 

Providing therapy as well as a creative outlet for young Palestinian teenagers who were traumatized by the war, the theater group compiled monologues they had written. The project deftly was built upon the premise of performance-based politics to emerge as a potent entity of cultural resistance, to be shared with the world.

Austin Archer as Tamer Najem, The Gaza Monologues, Ashtar Theatre, In The Now Productions.

In 2024, watching the astutely produced video presentation of The Gaza Monologues by In The Now Productions, a Utah-based independent theater company, it is simultaneously striking and utterly disturbing to witness not only has nothing changed in the 14 years since the project came together but how the current situation in Gaza is now far worse than anyone could have ever anticipated. 

Last fall, as it became evident that Israel would not cease its campaign to obliterate and eliminate Gaza and its population from the map and the U.S. would not attempt to halt the war, Ashtar Theatre called for theatrical artists from around the world to share readings of The Gaza Monologues, as a sign of solidarity with Palestinians. William Richardson of In The Now registered with the theater to produce a filmed version, which is now available on YouTube.

The Utah production is marked by excellent, sincere performances, which honor the integrity of the original texts and effectively elucidate the vital objective of cultural resistance in its most resilient form. The 36 artists featured in the film, all of whom volunteered to participate, include many of the best known names in the Utah theater community, along with individuals from locations on both coasts of the U.S. The production includes the original 2010 monologues, follow-up pieces from some of the students in 2014 and monologues that Ali Abu Yassin, project creator and director, wrote last fall.

Latoya Cameron as Wi’am El Dieri, The Gaza Monologues, Ashtar Theatre, In The Now Productions.

For young Gazans, who realize how so few with the power to stop the military campaign and hold those responsible for their war crimes have stepped forward to act, The Gaza Monologues stand out as practically the only outlet they have had to share their human faces and their experiences with the world.

In 2010, the project was originally set for the young Palestinians to perform the work for the United Nations in New York City but the Israeli government stepped in to prevent them from securing visas to enter the U,S. This, of course, was an outrageous but still unexpected example of the persistently imposed state of invisibility Palestinians have endured. But, it also has solidified the resolve of Palestinians to document their struggles for independent representation and determination. Thus, with the authors of The Monologues being forcibly uncoupled from the bodies of their texts, the project was opened up to the global theatrical world.

The initial response was exceptional. For the UN performance, 22 actors representing 18 countries participated. Within the first five years, more than 1,500 youth performed The Monologues in Australia, Canada, China, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, among others. In 2024, there has been a good bit of resurgence in performing the work. The hallmark of the In The Now production is the earnest commitment of every actor to perform their readings, knowing the responsibility that they have been entrusted with by the young Gazan authors, who have remained mired in a state of forced invisibility.

The film runs two hours and 30 minutes. I recommend watching it in sections, to absorb the impact of the spectrum of experiences, as they are conveyed through the words. 

Many of the monologues indicate how young Palestinians, many just 14 or 15 years old, were not just transformed by the relentless Israeli assault but also by the comforting experience of the Ashtar Theatre project to keep their sense of humanity and hope alive, even in the most extreme set of circumstances. One example is in the words of Amani Shurafa: “The war was a black ghost that covered Gaza’s day and night. It imposed its hell on people, on the earth and sky and air that we breathe.” She added that the theater became “like a hand extended.”

Bijan Hosseini as Ashraf Al Sossi, The Gaza Monologues, Ashtar Theatre, In The Now Productions.

While the preeminent narrative in The Monologues centers around the young authors’ hopes of being seen as human and as children, there are contributions that emphasize the essence of their identity as Palestinians and, more importantly, their home and community known as Gaza. One of the most moving monologues comes from Yasmin Abu Amir. She wrote, “After the war, I began to wear very clean and neat clothes so  that if I died, I would die a nice death. But the biggest problem would be if they hit me with a missile because I would be torn into one hundred pieces. And I want to die in one piece.” 

Her closing puts the fine point on the essence of cultural resistance. “Oh, how wonderful Gaza is! And how wonderful Gaza’s dreams are! Our dream has become to die a nice death instead of living a nice life!” Indeed, for us to accept and act earnestly in the belief that childhood is sacred, Yasmin Abu Amir’s words concisely epitomize not only the effects of the war campaign to which they have been subjected but also remind us sharply of the young people’s deep relationship and roots to Gaza. 

Viewers also are encouraged to donate to Ashtar Theatre’s Psycho-Social Intervention Fund, which provides trauma relief for youth in Palestine.

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