West Windsor Arts Center is showcasing a new exhibition and a new theater company in the coming weeks. “Memory of Here, Memory of There: Fertile Crescent Dialogues” is part of the state-wide Fertile Crescent Project, a showcase of exhibitions, lectures, performances, film screenings, and events from New Brunswick to Trenton focused on women from the Middle East. The exhibit opens at the West Windsor Arts Center on Sunday, September 2. An artist reception will be held Saturday, September 8, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The project is an initiative of Judith K. Brodsky and Ferris Olin, founding directors of the Institute of Women and Art at Rutgers, to stimulate conversation and instill pride in the cultural heritage of New Jersey’s growing population from the Muslim and Middle Eastern Diaspora.
The six artists, Americans who were raised here, have heritage from Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, and Israel, but their artwork reflects the conflicts they experience about which culture they belong to. Participating artists include Emna Zghal, Nadia Ayari, Dahlia Elsayed, Milcah Bassel, Samira Abbassy, and Armita Raafat.
Samira Abbassy was born in Ahwaz, Iran, and moved to London as a child. She moved to New York to help to set up the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Center, where she has a studio and is a board member. Nadia Ayari came to the U.S. from Tunisia in 2000 and earned her MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Milcah Bassel was born in 1981 in Boston and raised in Jerusalem. She studied drawing and painting at the Jerusalem Studio School, alternative medicine at Lev Hamaga College in Israel, and received her post baccalaureate in studio art from Brandeis University in 2011. She is an MFA candidate at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers.
Emna Zghal is a Tunisian-born, U.S. based artist. Armita Raafat received her BFA from Al-Zahra University in Tehran and completed her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. Dahlia Elsayed, born in New York City, graduated from Barnard College and received her MFA from Columbia University.
Curator Anne Queeney McKeown is an artist whose practice includes painting, printmaking, and handmade paper. Her work has been shown in Japan, Sweden, Cuba, and Canada.
The Now Play Reading Series debuts at the arts center on Tuesday, September 4. The new series focused on the development of original plays by the NOW Theater Company will feature works by four area playwrights: Ian August, Jim Christy, EM Lewis, and Lynne Elson. Members of the audience will have an opportunity to talk to them.
“I actually like play readings, because you get to use your imagination and focus on the words, like old time radio shows,” says Elson, co-producing artistic director. “The plays are all very thought-provoking and unique.” Tickets are $6.
The schedule for the readings is as follows:
Tuesday, September 4, 7 p.m. “The Goldilocks Zone” by Ian August is a contemporary comedy. Frannie wants a baby, with or without her husband Ray; Andy wants to find what’s missing in his relationship with longtime partner Matt — that is, until a chance encounter brings him and Frannie together.
Tuesday, September 25, 7 p.m. “Put Them Away” by James Christy focuses on a kid taking revenge on his parents after an “unjust grounding.”
Tuesday, October 2, 7 p.m. “Heads” by EM Lewis features four civilians held captive in Iraq.
Tuesday, October 30, 7 p.m. “A Blessed Unrest” by Lynne Elson is about a professional dancer after a car wreck leaves him quadriplegic.
The company is dedicated to producing original plays, using New Jersey writers, directors, and actors. Formed last fall by Elson and Scott Langdon, an Equity actor and Plainsboro resident, the company’s first production was “A Dickens Christmas” in East Brunswick last December. They brought “A Christmas Carol” and “Cricket on the Hearth” to life with only one or two actors.
The company is seeking actors for the play readings. Contact Lynne Elson, co-producing artistic director, by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-491-5404.
Visit www.westwindsorarts.org or call 609-716-1931 for information.