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Featured Contributors, Nov. 2017

Two playwrights and activists with different backgrounds but a shared vision of dissent.

Naomi Wallace. (Photo by Gregory Costanzo)

Playwrights Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace have worked together in various capacities—as dramatists, as activists, and as editors of the anthology Inside/Out: Six Plays From Palestine and the Diaspora—for more than a dozen years, long enough, as Khalidi puts it, that they “kind of read each other’s minds, politically and aesthetically.” One sentiment the two writers—he Beirut-born and Brooklyn-dwelling, she Kentucky-born and North Yorkshire-residing—have shared since President Trump’s inauguration is a frustration with the predominant discourse among his ostensible opposition. While they join in many common criticisms of the U.S.’s 45th president, they question what Khalidi calls “the obsession with Trump himself on the part of the media and our colleagues, specifically to the degree that it seems often to be based on the implication that before Trump, all was good in America.” In much of their work—he in plays like Tennis in Nablus and Sabra Falling, she in One Flea Spare and The Liquid Plain—both authors challenge that unexamined consensus about “the inherent purity and goodness in the American project.”

Ismail Khalidi. (Photo by Z. Zenowich)

With their critical essay in this issue, they hope “to intervene into the conversation, to remind ourselves that we as theatremakers must try to see past the obvious ills of this specific moment—as measured in a term, a tweet or a news cycle—and keep our eyes (and projects) focused on the deep systemic problems of the American past that got us here.” The work of resistance—in art as in politics—“was urgent long before Trump,” Khalidi says, “and will continue long after our current president has vacated the White House.”

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