Paradise was inspired by the story of Ayat al Akhras, an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber and high-schooler who blew herself up in Jerusalem, killing three people, including herself and Rachel Levy, a 17-year-old Israeli high school student.
The work was commissioned by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and was scheduled to begin performances in the beginning of March 2003, but was canceled after protests by groups claiming to represent a Cincinnati religious community.
The Dramatists Guild of America and the writers group PEN issued statements "deploring the decision by the Playhouse to censor this thoughtful work about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis," according to Epic.
Under the direction of Richard Kuranda and Carolyn Woodring, Epic presents the reading of the controversial new play 8 PM April 25, at The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park South. The suggested donation is $30 and will benefit PEN America, the Dramatists Guild and Epic Repertory Theatre Company. Call (212) 740-3080 for reservations.
The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park held a free, public reading of Paradise Feb. 18 in Ohio. Paradise was commissioned by The Playhouse in the Park for its 2002-2003 educational outreach program, which tours local schools. In January, it was decided that the tour would be canceled as the play's content — and possible action to stop the production — became a growing concern in the community. The play, written by New York playwright O'Malley, follows the story of two girls, one Palestinian and one Israeli. Both girls — who in another time and place could have been friends — deal with their everyday life of homework, secret crushes and dreams while war persists around them.
In a statement earlier this year, Playhouse producing artistic director Edward Stern stated, "Paradise always was conceived to create dialogue and understanding about an extraordinarily complex subject, I am glad that, through this reading, we can again focus on the play and allow it finally to be heard. While we ultimately concluded that it was not the right time to pursue the school tour of Paradise, our commitment to the play and to its playwright has never wavered. We hope that members of the community will take this opportunity to hear the play and form their own conclusions."
The goal of the nascent Epic Repertory Theatre Company is to become a "fully functional repertory company in New York City."
In October, Epic kicks off its inaugural repertory season at the Daryl Roth 2 Theatre in Union Square. The season will include two full-length plays in repertory and a workshop series.
Upcoming Epic Rep works include Farblondjet, by playwright-in-residence Jeremy Kareken (fall 2003) and a new Romulus Linney adaptation of National Book Award winner "Going After Cacciato," by Tim O'Brien (spring 2004).