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February 03, 2003

A New Play Encounters Muslims' Ire in Cincinnati

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"Paradise" has been fatwa'ed in Cincinnati, at least the playwright Glyn O'Malley says so. His latest play, "Paradise" deals with suicide bombers and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. As a work in progress it was "killed before it was finished," he said.

Commissioned by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, that city's principal institutional theater, the 50-minute play was to tour high schools beginning in March, but the tour was canceled after a protest by local Muslims. (The executive director of the Ohio Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jad Humeidan, said there are 15,000 Muslims in the area.) As a result there has been a windstorm of controversy in Cincinnati.

In response the Cincinnati Playhouse has scheduled a free public reading of the play at its theater on Feb. 18. Ed Stern, the producing artistic director, announced that teachers, principals and leaders of the Jewish and Muslim groups would be invited.

The play was inspired by the story of Ayat al-Akhras, an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber who blew herself up last March in Jerusalem, killing three people, including herself and Rachel Levy, a 17-year-old Israeli. Both were high school seniors.
In official statements both the writers' group PEN and the Dramatists Guild of America deplored the cancellation of the play. Later when Mr. Stern said he would give the play a public reading at the theater, representatives of PEN sent him a letter commending his decision. [more]