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Returning to Haifa

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Check-in will begin one hour prior to start time.
Seating is limited and first come, first served.
Advance registration does not guarantee seating; early arrival is suggested.
Unclaimed seats will be opened to the public 10 minutes before the event starts.

Returning to Haifa, by Ghassan Kanafani, adapted by Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi

In 1948, Palestinian couple Said and Safiyya fled their home during the Nakba. Now, in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the borders are open for the first time in twenty years, and the couple dare to return back to their home in Haifa. They are prepared – of course – to find someone else living where they once did. Yet nothing could prepare Said and Safyya for the encounter they both desire and dread.

How does contemporary theatrical practice reflect shifting conditions of possibility for political solidarity and mobilization? How can the art of the theater be used as a tool of and for political reflection, and research? In RETURNS we aim to explore these possibilities of theatre and performance, in what is, both in Palestine and the US, a moment of reactionary ascendancy, and increasingly forbidding limits on progressive political action.

The reading will be followed by a Q&A with Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace, moderated by Alisa Solomon (Professor & Director, Arts Concentration, M.A. Program, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University).

7:00PM, October 4th, 2019
The Katharina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room
Lenfest Center for the Arts
615 West 129th Street
New York, NY 10027

Free and Open to the Public

Please RSVP

Ismail Khalidi’s plays include Truth Serum Blues (Pangea World Theater ‘05), Tennis in Nablus (Alliance Theatre ‘10), Foot (Teatro Amal ‘16), Sabra Falling (Pangea ‘17), and Dead Are My People (Noor Theatre ’18). He also co-adapted, with Naomi Wallace, two novels for the stage; Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa (Finborough Theatre ‘18) and Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer (Actors Theatre of Louisville ‘19). Khalidi’s work has been included in numerous anthologies and with Wallace he co-edited another, entitled Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora (TCG ‘15). His writing has been featured in American Theatre Magazine, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, Mizna, Guernica, The Dramatist and ReMezcla. Khalidi holds an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Naomi Wallace’s plays―produced in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Middle East―include One Flea Spare, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Things of Dry Hours, The Fever Chart, And I and Silence, Night is a Room and Returning to Haifa (adapted with Ismail Khalidi). In 2009, One Flea Spare was incorporated into the permanent repertoire of the French National Theatre, the Comédie-Française. Only two American playwrights have been added to the Comédie’s repertoire in 300 years. Awards: MacArthur Fellowship, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award, Obie Award, the Horton Foote Prize and Ubu Award (Italy). Wallace received the inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize in drama and an Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

Wallace is under commission by Headlong Theater in the UK and she is writing the book for the new John Mellencamp musical.

Praise for the 2018 London production of Returning to Haifa by Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace.

"[Returning to Haifa] offers a moving confrontation between two sets of displaced people and an utterly unsentimental exploration of the complexities of home, history and parenthood...its call for reciprocal awareness and acknowledgement of past injustice seems more necessary than ever."
- The Guardian★★★★

"...As quietly shattering as it is gently complex."
- WhatsOnStage★★★★

"Kanafani’s parable is even-handed enough to explore the agony of both the exiled Palestinian couple and the Jewish widow...and to empathize with all of them."
- Jewish Renaissance★★★★

"A simple, understated version of Kanafani's iconic narrative, bringing spectators into the action with a canny, persistent, unaggressive aesthetic that proved remarkably effective. This version of Returning to Haifa was carefully designed to open, rather than close, a debate on Israel and Palestine in a time of renewed conflict."
- Theatre Journal

"Returning to Haifa is a beautiful and important play portraying the personal tragedies created because of much biggeracts between humans."
- Exeunt Magazine

"An electrifying eighty minutes of theatre...The beauty of the writing lies in the amalgam of the political and the personal; the connection between individual and global struggles."
- The Spy In The Stalls★★★★

"The adaptation demonstrates the control that power & pain exert over individual lives."
- The Upcoming★★★★