Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis alum’s play about Israeli-Palestinian friendship performed at New York City International Fringe Festival

Published: September 5, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last August, Brandeis alum Meron Langsner ’04 had his play, “Over Here,” performed at the New York City International Fringe Festival. This festival is the largest performing arts festival in all of North America, where over 200 companies from all over the world perform.

A graduate of the playwriting program, Langsner received his MFA in 2004. While a student at Brandeis, he began writing his play while simultaneously working on his MFA degree. The play revolves around the friendship between an Israeli immigrant and a Palestinian-American in New York City during the summer of 2002. The play was inspired by an exercise Langsner participated in during an elective on Israeli film. An early version of “Over Here” won an award and received a stage reading at the New England Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. “The play came out of my experiences of 9/11 and the months immediately following, as well as what was happening in Israel during that time period,” said Langsner in an interview with The Hoot.

Langsner was approached by an old friend, Katherine Harte-DeCoux, who asked if he could perform his play at the Fringe Festival. An MFA candidate in directing at Brooklyn College, Decoux knew of some actors from her program who could play the two main characters.

Langsner’s favorite part of the process was the collaboration between the actors, the director and himself. He also adjusted the script as the work process went on. “I added a brief scene to the play during this process about baseball from the perspective of a new arrival that was especially fun to write, it includes the line, ‘I find your National Pastime tactically unsound. Why would you throw away your weapon before running into hostile territory?’” Langsner joked.

“One thing I particularly enjoyed about the process of this production was that the director and the actors approached it as a human story about friendship in spite of hard circumstances, as opposed to a political statement,” said Langsner. “I also really loved that we had the support of Israeli artists who lived through periods of intense terrorist attacks and really understood the circumstances of the play. The fact that the director and the lead actors (the lead actors were both Indian-American) had no ties to the region and were just telling a story that they found compelling was a really cool element of this production, especially considering how charged the subject matter is.”

Although the play was inspired by Langner’s experiences following 9/11, he knows that the play is relevant to today. “I hate that this play is timely again,” he wrote in his author’s note. “When I first started writing it, in the spring of 2003, I was responding to both what was happening in the Middle East and what was going on and what had happened in New York City. I had hoped that the play would become a period piece, and that one day people would look at it and say, ‘Yeah, that stuff that they’re talking about, that was actually happening at the time.’ I hate that I am writing this note as a war is going on again, and that if these characters were real, they would be less likely to meet today than they would have been in 2002. I hate that this program note might be outdated by the time the show opens, because by then things could get worse. All that said, the fact that this is timely means that what I was trying to do when I wrote it, to tell a human story about friendship between people who are painted by their respective cultures and the world at large to be adversaries, has become that much more important. It is also a story about PTSD and what it does to our interactions with those associated with the trauma. But more than that, it is about friendship.”

Langsner brought up an important idea in his note. “We need first and foremost to see the humanity in each other,” he stated. “The working title of this play was ‘B’Shalom’ which is Hebrew for ‘In Peace.’ I hope that one day soon, people will look at this play and be able to look at the situations described as history never to be repeated. I hope that they will be able to look at it from a place of peace.”