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Seattle Theater Wades Into Bosnian Conflict

BOSNIA Play by S.P. Miskowski, Presented by New Image Theatre in Seattle through April 30.

AS the Serbian aggression in Bosnia drags on, many people around the world have wondered what they can do to help the Bosnian people. For Hanna Eady, director of the New Image Theater in Seattle, the answer has come in the form of artistic expression.

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While helping to locate Bosnian refugees in Seattle eight months ago, Mr. Eady says he realized ``the best thing we can do for them is to make sure their stories get heard.''

The result is ``Bosnia,'' a play that stems from Eady's thorough interviews with 12 of the roughly 100 refugees now in the Seattle area. Eady says it may be the first play about the two-year-old war in that region.

Where the movie ``Schindler's List'' addresses similar issues of past collective guilt, ``Bosnia'' addresses questions in the present tense: What can be done to end the conflict and restore dignity to the Muslim Bosnians? If the people outside Bosnia, including those in the audience, do nothing, do they share in guilt for the atrocities? How much effort is enough?

``Bosnia'' has neither the all-star cast nor the polished script of a ``Schindler's List.'' Eady calls it a ``rough draft'' with ``lots of holes'' he wants to fill before hoped-for runs in Portland, Ore., Los Angeles, and Chicago.

What the play does offer is a glimpse into the recent Balkan tragedy through the lives of a few Bosnian people, predominantly a rural construction worker and his fiancee, who works for a Sarajevo newspaper.

The characters are fictitious composites, rather than one-for-one matches with the refugees.

Narration and mock newscasts also weave in elements of history, some going as far back as Serbia's fight against the Turks in the 1389 battle of Kosovo, and against Germans in World Wars I and II.

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Perhaps the most moving scene comes near the end, when one of the actual refugees joins the cast onstage for a scripted interview. He speaks in his native Serbo-Croatian language, with one of the actors translating.

``You kill me twice,'' he says when the interviewer says she thinks the West should at least send food and medicine to help his people. He explains that, having already ``died,'' his people could use the aid to revive but still be without adequate weapons to defend themselves. (The international arms embargo has been controversial since the conflict began.)

As the play's director, Eady brings to his task a sense of mission born of his own experience with conflict along ethnic lines. As a Palestinian growing up in Israel, he tried to bridge the tensions between his people and the Jews there, and he had friends whose parents were survivors of the Holocaust.

Eady describes the purpose of the New Image Theater as offering fresh authentic images of often-misunderstood ethnic groups, ``thereby causing the audience to question and change their attitudes,'' he says.

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