Cultural Project is the LGS Scholars' initiative based on an Off-Broadway theater Culture Project that offers alternative theater plays that address and bring to light the very issues that presently impact our world. Through the pieces it hosts, "Culture Project sparks conversation, lifts the human heart and incites political action," which goes hand in hand with the Levermore Global Scholars Program's goal of initiating conversation concerning the world surrounding us, not only through academics and in the classroom but also culturally using New York City as a medium. This initiative was inspired by the Culture Project play DAI that the LGS Scholars saw in Fall 2006.
On February 9, 2008, the Levermore Global Scholars Program brought 20 students to the Culture Project to watch "Betrayed" a highly praised play on Iraqi interpreters who help and work for the United States Intelligence in Iraq, but when targeted by their own Iraqi people as traitors they are ignored and not helped by the United States government. After the play, we went to a nearby pizza shop and had some food while talking about what we thought about the play and how its affected our thoughts on the Iraq war. What was brought up was how little we knew and how much we want to know and do. The play was excellent not only in content and actual issue, but the dialogue, the acting, and the technical production of it was also very good in that it all came together so well and engaged the audience not directly, but in thought.
In fall 2006, a group of LGS students and I decided to see Culture Project's DAI. DAI is a one-woman play written by Iris Bahr, who also stars as the sole cast member in this captivating and moving socio-political piece. The play showcases ten characters in a Tel-Aviv cafe before a suicide bombing. It spends a mere 3 to 5 minutes per character before their imminent death, however, that time is enough for you to feel for the characters. There are prostitutes, news casters, a New York socialite, a father, children, mothers and more, yet there was always a quality brought out that made the audience relate to the characters they saw on stage.
In that short 85 to 90 minutes, the characters were real and we saw their spirit and the lives they lived and experienced every day. The play will make you cry and scream; it will push your buttons and make you think. Students who attended were on edge throughout the night, captured by Bahr's fluidity between characters, the humor she inserts at the right times, and the seriousness of the situation in that region of the Middle East. LA weekly says, "Bahr balances pungent humor, bittersweet pathos, and a sublime charm," while Progressive U states that it is "the most effective piece of work [they] have ever seen. Many works of art give us the emotional reaction but few are capable of the full physical reaction that Iris Bahr was able to capture with DAI."
Being that it was the first Culture Project play for the students of the Levermore Global Scholars Program, it came at a time that encouraged LGS students to be involved in critical thought regarding the various issues in the world that surround them and beyond. For me, it would set the tone as the very events we want LGS to take part in, those that incite thought and action within individuals while supplementing LGS learning and service goals.
Written by Donna Truong ‘10