THE RIVER AND THE SEA by Danny Bryck — Monday, March 30 at 7:30pm
In 2012 – 2013, playwright Danny Bryck conducted hundreds of interviews in Israel/Palestine, capturing the staggering diversity of voices of the people living between the river and the sea: from a young soldier in Tel Aviv to a young mother from Gaza, a Holocaust survivor to a Sudanese refugee, an American settler to a German convert to Judaism turned anti-occupation activist. Using their real words, THE RIVER AND THE SEA challenges our notions of birthright and belonging, history and nation, and the ways we define ourselves and each other. When everyone tells a different story, how do we tell the truth?
Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
Featuring Lydia Barnett-Mulligan, Nathaniel Gundy, Greg Maraio, Bari Robinson, and Meg Taintor
Call the Box Office at 617-923-8487 to reserve your complimentary spot!
What first drew you to the theater?
Danny Bryck: I started acting when I was eight, so I think what drew me to the theater was my parents dragging me to the theater. Later on, I found how I can use it to do something positive beyond myself, and tell stories that aren’t being told and do work in my communities that needs to be done. Now I’m much more interested in exploring: how is art a way that a society talks to itself and heals itself and challenges itself? That impulse started to draw me toward documentary theater.
Tell us about your interview technique.
Danny Bryck: I try to turn the recorder on and then just have a conversation. It’s important to me to capture something of the person—their story is also in their personality and the way they express themselves. The River and the Sea is maybe eighty-five percent verbatim, there are a few composite characters, some things are paraphrased, some things are recreated from memory. The needs of the show demanded that I sacrifice some of the real so that there could be more of the true.
Once you had compiled the interviews, what was your process in crafting the play?
Danny Bryck: My first step in the process was decompressing. It was a really intense experience to be there for those three months and to be doing anywhere between two and seven interviews every day, going back and forth between two very different realities, of living in what is essentially a very technologically advanced Western country and what is essentially a third-world country that has no control over its own borders, that’s full of ghettos and refugee camps. And the one has no experience of the other because they’re not allowed to. So it was a real whiplash.
The goal of the project, at its most basic, was to gather the stories and experiences of as diverse a group of people as possible who have lived in that area, whatever we want to call that area, however we want to define it. And so, it wasn’t a neat story. The first draft was a series of moments, and we needed to do more work shopping, reading, revising, trial and error to find out what wasn’t supposed to be in it. And now it feels more like a play, so I’m excited to see where else it can go.
Was it your first trip to that corner of the world?
Danny Bryck: It wasn’t. I went to Hebrew school for a year and then dropped out because my understanding—even at the time, as a kid—was that Judaism was supposed to be about questioning and about conversation and about a dialectic. And at this Hebrew school, they would talk about something, and I’d raise my hand and go, “But why would God do that?” And they would go, “Shut up, kid.” So I didn’t have a traditional Bar Mitzvah because I didn’t finish.
Instead, my dad and my aunt and I went to Israel and went on a tour around the country and made up our own Bar Mitzvah ceremony where I did what was meaningful for me at the time. But it didn’t sink in, what was going on there. There was a system in place on top of a history of oppression that had been ingeniously covered up.
Even years later, I didn’t really learn too much more about it than I had absorbed from the zeitgeist. That’s what drew me to do this project in the first place. So researching and travelling and writing this play was an education for me, too. And that’s another reason why I love this kind of work, because it forces me to go beyond myself, and to learn things that I should learn, and then I get to share it with other people.
Going there makes it impossible to ignore. You’re forced to reckon with the people who are living through this and reckon with the visceral experience of living in this torn up place. And it’s hard to get that just from reading books and articles. Maybe theater is something in between that and the real experience. I hope.
Danny Bryck is a theatre artist / activist based in New York and Boston. He is the creator of No Room for Wishing, a one-man documentary play based on interviews with people involved in Occupy Boston. The show premiered in Boston in 2012 with Company One, Central Square Theater and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, and has since toured New York and Massachusetts, including the Outside the Box Festival. His next documentary project was The River and the Sea, a play based on interviews he conducted in Israel/Palestine in 2012-2013 and developed through a residency with New Repertory Theatre in Boston over the past two years. Other recent work includes cement, love, nothing else and Lucky, two short pieces written for “Boston Beyond Today,” a series of events responding to police brutality and systemic racism, and Quixote in Kabul, an exploration of Cervantes’ Don Quixote as the journey of an American soldier in Afghanistan, told through spoken word, music and dance, commissioned by Boston University. He also co-authored Love in the Time of Time Travel, a sketch comedy show, with A. Vincent Ularich. As an actor he has worked in Boston with Actors’ Shakespeare Project, New Repertory Theatre, Underground Railway Theater, the Publick Theatre, the Huntington Theatre Company, American Repertory Theater, and Stoneham Theatre, among others, in New York with The Civilians, New Perspectives Theatre Company, and on the daytime drama As the World Turns, and in a handful of independent films, including the Rasmussen Brothers’ Dark Feed and The Inhabitants. He was an artistic associate with Whistler in the Dark Theatre in Boston for three years. He also works as a dialect and accent modification coach and theatre educator. Mr. Bryck has been nominated for four IRNE awards, received the David Wheeler Award for emerging talent in the Boston theatre scene, and is a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Artists’ Council. He holds a BFA from Boston University’s School of Theatre, studied at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art, and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association. www.dannybryck.com