The special event in Greenwich Village has proven popular. The shows are booked, and the waiting list is so full that no names are being added.
Back House Productions (Thomas Kail, artistic director; Anthony Veneziale, associate artistic director) and Cherry Lane Theatre (Angelina Fiordellisi, artistic director; James King, managing director) will welcome pieces by Beau Willimon, a New York playwright who came up with the idea for the reading; Kia Corthron (Force Continuum); Israel Horovitz (Line); Anne Nelson (Savages, The Guys); Heather Raffo (9 Parts of Desire); and Betty Shamieh (Roar).
Among the performers on Cherry Lane's Mainstage will be Mozhan Marnò, who performed the 2006 Berkeley Rep production of 9 Parts of Desire; Anthony Veneziale, a founding member of the popular hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme; Leila Buck, Brenda Thomas, Peter Stadlen, Lucy Boyle, Adam Saunders, Annie Giobbe, Lanna Joffrey, Michelle Torres and Tara Franklin.
Willimon conceived the event shortly after he learned that bombing had commenced in Lebanon. His girlfriend's father was living in Beirut when the current conflict began. "Rather than just wait and worry," Willimon said in a statement, "I thought it might be helpful to do something constructive. I suggested the idea of a reading to the folks at Back House and they agreed to produce the event."
Within a few more days, five more writers had signed on to participate and Cherry Lane Theatre offered its Main Stage as a venue.
Thomas Caruso will direct. Performances are 8 PM Aug. 17 and 18.
The six short plays are billed as a response to the current developments in the Middle East. Three of the plays were written specifically for the event.
Corthron's Power Lunch, which takes place in a quaint restaurant, imagines a pleasant chat between two women: Condie and Hillary. Horovitz's Beirut Rocks is about American students stranded in a Beirut hotel awaiting evacuation. Willimon's Dog River takes the form of email exchanges between an Arab-American in Lebanon and his girlfriend back in the United States.
The reading will also include excerpts from two new plays: Nelson's Petra, about two women—an American and a Saudi—who meet on a bus south of Amman, and Shamieh's The Black Eyed, as well as an excerpt from Raffo's critically acclaimed one-woman play 9 Parts of Desire.
Cherry Lane Theatre is at 38 Commerce Street in Greenwich Village. The readings are free (although a $10 donation to the theatre is suggested) and open to the public, to be followed by a post-reading dialogue with the audience.
"Our goal is to offer a diverse spectrum of responses," said Willimon. "By engaging in a dialogue with the audience, we hope, in our own small way, to raise awareness and encourage a forum for multiple perspectives."
Reservations can be made by calling Megan Messmer at Cherry Lane Theatre at (212) 989-2020 ext. 32, or online by e-mailing reservation requests to MiddleEastReading@gmail.com.
Visit www.backhouseproductions.org or www.cherrylanetheatre.org.