The play “I Shall Not Hate” is travelling across the country, performing at colleges, and creating conversations that otherwise are unlike to occur.
“You’re going to the middle of a cornfield in Iowa and bringing the concerns of Gaza, and a part of the world that touches people — wholeheartedly.”
— Artistic Director Ari Roth
For Lindsay Acker and Austin J. Sachs, students at Eastern Mennonite University who spent 3½ months last year in the Middle East, the one-man play that came to their campus compelled them to grapple with all sorts of wrenching memories.
“I was in tears when the show ended, and my stomach was in knots the rest of the night,” reported Acker, a sophomore from Buffalo. “A lot that I had chosen to set aside — because dealing with it daily is emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging — just came back to the surface,” explained Sachs, a junior from Harrisburg, Pa.
And for Gassan Abbas, the Palestinian actor from Israel who has been performing “I Shall Not Hate” in one college town after another, the experience has broadened his understanding of the compassion in this country — as well as a sense of its myopia about the world. “It’s important for me to emphasize that the American people are very naïve,” the plain-spoken performer said in Hebrew, in an interview conducted with the help of an Israeli interpreter, Sivan Atzmon. About his region of the world, he added: “They know nothing.”
Well, surely the audiences who have been coming to see “I Shall Not Hate” in places such as Norman, Okla., Grinnell, Iowa, and Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley know a little more, courtesy of the stories that Washington’s Mosaic Theater Company has been bringing to their doorsteps. Led by Artistic Director Ari Roth, a seven-person team embarked on the first national tour the three-year-old theater company, based at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE, has ever undertaken, with “I Shall Not Hate” and another solo play about Israelis and Palestinians, David Hare’s “Via Dolorosa.”