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Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior

September 10, 2011–October 2, 2011
Avalon Theatre (In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre)
1500 E. Lake St. – Minneapolis

Pangea World Theater presents ZAFIRA THE OLIVE OIL WARRIOR on the 10th anniversary of September 11 

It is the not so distant future and suicide bombers have hit simultaneous cities across the United States. Arab and Muslim Americans are official enemies of the state and have been ordered into internment camps. “Zafira the Olive Oil Warrior” tells the story of one Arab American womanʼs experience leading up to, during, and after her internment.

Written by Kathryn Haddad
Directed by Dipankar Mukherjee

Featuring Taous Claire Khazem as Zafira. Other members of the cast are Sam Issa, Heidi Berg, Sarah Broude, Antonio Duke, Fatima Zahra El Filali, Garry Geiken, Jose Manuel Hernandez, Iman Mefleh, Emma Palmer, Nadia Boufous Phelps, Katie Herron Robb, Sophia Sarenpa, and Aamera Siddiqui.

Preview: Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Opening: Sept. 11, 4 p.m.
Sept. 15 – Oct. 2, 2011 || Thursdays – Saturdays 7:30 p.m., Sundays 4 p.m.

Ticket information

Associate Events
Post-performance discussions on September 11 and on Friday and Saturday nights. Pre-performance discussions on Sundays at 2 p.m. in the lobby of the Avalon Theatre. Discussions are co-sponsored by Mizna.

  • Sept. 11, 2 – 3:30 p.m.: “September 11th: Ten Years Later.” Panelists: Anh Pham (Anti-War Committee), Munazza Humayan (CAIR), and Khaldoun Samman (Professor of Sociology, Macalester College). Moderated by Lana Barkawi (Artistic/Executive Director of Mizna).
    There will also be a post-performance discussion moderated by Ragui Assaad, (Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of MN), followed by opening night reception.
  • Sept. 16: Post Performance Discussion moderated by Imed Labidi, (Scholar of internatinoal Media and Cultural Studies)
  • Sept. 17: Post Performance Discussion moderated by Meena Natarajan, (Executive/Literary Director of Pangea World Theater)
  • Sept. 18, 2-3:30 p.m.: Workshop for Writers, led by Kathryn Haddad
  • Sept. 23: Post Performance Discussion moderated by Charlotte Karem Albrecht, (Poet and doctoral candidate, U of MN)
  • Sept. 24: Post Performance Discussion moderated by Rabi’h Nahas (Writer and pharmacist)
  • Sept. 25, 2-3:30 p.m.: Panel: “Japanese Internment Remembered” Internee Sally Sudo, (Japanese American Citizens League) & David Mura, (Writer, performer, and teacher)
  • Sept. 30: Post Performance Discussion moderated by Khaldoun Samman
  • Oct. 1, 4-5:30 p.m.: Workshop: “9/11: Ten Years of Media Coverage,” led by Nahid Khan, (Writer and doctoral candidate at U of MN)
    Post Performance Discussion moderated by Lana Barkawi
  • Oct. 2, 2-3:30 p.m.: Workshop: “Artistic responses to 9/11,” led by Charlotte Karem Albrecht

All performances and events at the Avalon Theatre
(In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre)
1500 E. Lake St., Minneapolis

More about Zafira:

“Zafira” shows us an Arab American school teacher sent to an internment camp along with other Arab and Muslim women. She tells her story from the present when she is homeless and living under the rebuilt 35W bridge in Minneapolis.

Just days after the September 11 attacks, there were calls made to various radio stations across the United States, asking for Arab Americans to be placed in internment camps. Kofi Annan said, “When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.”

Haddad’s play take a compelling and critical look at Arab American identity, institutional racism, the struggles of different generations of immigrants, fears of Arabs and Muslims, and the possibility of a collective punishment in the U.S.

Haddad says, “It’s ten years later, and what does the world look like in a time of ‘peace’ in America? Young people recruited for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The general public is willing to accept racial profiling and infiltration of private communications of its citizens now. This is ten years after the attack on the Twin Towers during a quiet time in our country. The impetus of the play is to wonder what would happen during a time that was not ‘quiet’—during a time of another attack. Could something like the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII happen again—this time to the Arab American and Muslim community?”

“Working with Pangea World Theater is a natural collaboration for me,” says Haddad. “The fearlessness in tackling difficult subjects makes the partnership one that I treasure. Working with Director Dipankar Mukherjee, whose politics and art I respect is exciting. His dedication to the same ideals I hold—staying true to a sharp political vision, no matter how uncomfortable it might make some people feel—is important to me. The commitment to work with members of the local Arab and Muslim community is also one that I champion, and this play will include those members who can bring personal experiences to the stage. My hope for this play is that it will start many dialogues that will continue past closing night.”

Director Dipankar Mukherjee says, “Pangea’s work lies at the dynamic relevant intersection of art, politics and human rights. The tenth anniversary of the September 11th attack is an opportunity to reflect and evaluate all the cultural, social, and political shifts that have occurred in the U.S. and other countries in the world. Kathryn Haddad’s powerful voice and politics are a perfect fit for this time and space. In ‘Zafira’ Kathryn paints a poetic and insightful canvas of the pulse of current day politics.

“As we approach the election year where partisan politics pushes us to create and target “others” through the media and other propaganda, this play is going to provoke the community to engage and re-examine opinions about Islamophobia and our attitudes as humans.”


Kathryn Haddad

Kathryn Haddad

About the Playwright:

Kathryn Haddad is a Lebanese American writer and community organizer. She founded Mizna–one of the few Arab American Arts and literary organizations in the United States where she served as its Artistic and Executive Director for 12 years. Kathryn is a 2004 – 05 recipient of an Archibald Bush Leadership Fellowship for her work with the Arab American community. As a writer, she has received three Playwright’s Center Many Voices Fellowships, was a part of Theater Mu’s New Eyes Festival, and her play, With Love from Ramallah (co-written with Juliana Pegues, produced by Mizna, and staged at Mixed Blood Theater) had a full production in 2004. She was part of the Diverse Visions Playwright Development program at Pangea World Theater, where Zafira first appeared. Her non-fiction pieces have appeared in several journals and she has lectured on Arab American arts throughout the United States. Awards include a travel and study grant from the Jerome Foundation for work with the Arab American community, as well as awards from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Intermedia Arts. She has been included in several anthologies of Arab American writers. A selection from With Love from Ramallah was a part of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival in 2004. Kathryn holds master’s degrees in Liberal Studies and Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota.  


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Pangea World Theater illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences,
and promotes human rights by creating and presenting international, multi-disciplinary theater.