World Stages: International Theater Festival – The Five Star Weekend Wrap in Review: ‘Fallujah’ and ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ at The Kennedy Center

The World Stages: International Theater Festival took center stage at The Kennedy Center, March 10-30, 2014 bringing together some of today’s most exciting theatrical visionaries presenting an unprecedented focus on theatre from around the globe. Twenty-two theatrical offerings from nineteen countries, and every continent except Antarctica, are represented in this theater Festival of dynamic stories examining contemporary issues and universal themes. Curated by Alicia Adams, Vice President, International Programming, thirteen fully staged productions will be featured including nine U.S. premieres, as well as four theater-focused installations, panel discussions, two staged readings, and two Directors forums.

The delights in this extraordinary assembling of theatrical treasures comprise World Stages: International Theater Festival 2014 – the Kennedy Center’s first theater-focused international festival!



                               Mothers, Sons and PTSD – Review: Fallujah


Inspired by the life and work of USMC Christian Ellis after meeting him, Philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten conceived an opera project for City Opera Vancouver, wanting to create a contemporary opera about the storied life of the man.  During his tour of duty in Iraq, Al Fallujah was Christian’s first exposure to the hard and daily combat the results in experiences of life, death and survival.

The events that happened in the life Ellis and other Marines and families dealing with the Iraq War became the work in progress production, Fallujah, (new material to sing) was presented just two days before this appearance) shared Saturday at a staged reading at The Kennedy Center in the Terrace Gallery as part of this year’s World Stages: International Theater Festival. With a running time just under two hours, Fallujah zeros in on 72 hours of the real-life marine recalling the traumatic events that he has seen and experience while in service.

USMC Phillip is in a Veterans Hospital following his fifth suicide attempt. (La Marcus Miller’s sensitive and vulnerable portrayal is riveting. His vocal command will have you hanging onto every note.)  Recognizing this cry for help, ‘family’ surround him, realizing as a Marine, if he truly wanted to die he would know how. Phililp’s mother (Lubana Al qunta) wants to see him, but he hasn’t been able to face her since he returned back to the U.S. The loyal marines (Isaac Grier, Luis Orozco, Daniel Foltz Morrison, Cris Frisco) he returned with – his other family – are there for him.

Excavating the human and social effects of the Iraq War, Fallujah, is a dramatic, emotionally charged production that also follows mothers and sons reconciling with a war that changed their relationships forever.  Directed by Joanna Settle, written by award-winning playwright Heather Raffo (9 Parts of Desire) and composed by Tobin Stokes, this contemporary chamber opera is a provocative  personal statement and testament to the inner battles of U.S. veterans.

Singing in English the opera is a vivid insider look at war where we learn that life with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects more than a select few and is lived by everyone involved. As the Marines are fighting and protecting Iraqis, we see how the infrequent high’s and devastating lows influence the percolating immediate and after effects of dealing with troubling situations.

The focus on family and what is of value is examined as each of five marines try to move forward, pushing through the disconnect in their relationships and reconciling the consequences of war.

Phillip’s time in the hospital forces him to with the past and present.

Scenes fly back and forth to Fallujah where humanizing memories of his encounter with a young Iraqi boy (Martin Bakari) are recalled, a catalyst through which he remembers how to live. As tensions mount, Fallujah, questions who do we become when we witness unspeakable acts of violence, and what relationships do we trust to piece us back together.

Lead by  the passionate play of Julius Abrahams on the piano, two musicians performed this musically innovative, and edgy opera that embraced the emotional overtures of the story, highlighted best by the thrash undertones and rock influenced transitions coming off the string’s of Ryan Mackstaller’s eclectic vibing of the electric guitar. Conducted by Miloš Repický (who is centered in the middle of the audience as he orchestrates) the vocal prowess of the entire cast in Fallujah is as compelling as the intensity of Heather Raffo’s libretto.

The bracing duet by the two overwrought mothers, Lubana Al quntar and mezzo-soprano Audrey Babcock wailing “How can I talk to him, How can I care for him” is a tear-filled, show stopping moment (literally and figuratively.) You can’t help but be affected.

World Stages Curator, Alicia Adams (The Kennedy Center’s Vice President, International Programming) in attendance for the performance, spoke briefly to the audience afterwards, “Fallujah is on the fringe for this festival, but it’s a story that needs to be told.”

Recommended for mature audiences. In English.

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Fallujah played March 29, at 3:00pm in the Terrace Gallery at The Kennedy Center  – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, D.C.

World Stages Festival YouTube channel



  The Merry Men of Sherwood Forrest Review: The Adventures of Robin Hood


Kids loved the performance of The Adventure of Robin Hood the day I attended. But I have to tell you, I think the adults in the audience enjoyed it more! Who says family fun can appeal to both the young and young at heart. This zany, crowd-pleasing presentation of the Robin Hood tale, written by Oliver Emanuel, is Co-commissioned by the Kennedy Center and Visible Fictions Theater of Scotland as a part of the World Stages: International Theatre Festival.

If you think you know all there is to know about Robin Hood, think again!  In sixty, rip-roaring, fun-filled minutes, two actors from Scotland, Billy Mack and Martin McCormick, (literally) jump into to The Adventure of Robin Hood in way you never seen the tale of Robin and his band of Merry Men and Women told before.

With the two actors playing every role in a full cast of characters in a variety of colorful settings, using nothing more that a pile of boxes, a shopping cart, and two flashlights (used as bows and arrows), this inventive and unconventional production is a thriving adventure of friendship, heroism, and corruption. This unique theater of storytelling is a majestic introduction for those new to the famous outlaw, and bright reminder for those more familiar.

In this adventure, the most hated man in the country is the corrupt and nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham who wants to stop the thief, Robin Hood, by any means necessary. Living his life on the run, and hero to the poor, Robin Hood is a man of many talents, including an expert archer and, yes, a successful thief. As a champion of the people, Robin, his best friend Little John, and band of thieves decide to fight back against the Sheriff.

The light show (Sergey Jakovsky) that accompanies this adventure tells it’s own visual story.  By focusing this majority audience of young theatregoers to the storytelling on stage, Suzie Inglis set design is perfectly sparse – except for that fascinating bundled stack of boxes (filled with goodies).

As they conquer the foes of Nottingham Castle, Robin Hood and Little John say “things aren’t perfect but at least there is hope.” That sentiment plus a whole lot of heart, is a great way to describe this rollicking production of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Ultimately, the lesson learned is if you have a vivid imagination, you can use anything – even an empty box – to make life an adventure and the world your own.

In English. Family theater. Recommended for age 8 and up.

Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission.

The Adventures of Robin Hood plays March 28 – April 6, at 7:30pm; Sunday 2:00pm in the Family Theatre at The Kennedy Center  – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC.  For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.  The closest metro station is Foggy Bottom/George Washington Univ. There is a FREE Kennedy Center Shuttle that departs from the metro station every 15 minutes from 9:45 a.m.-Midnight Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-Midnight Saturdays, and noon-Midnight Sundays.


World Stages Festival YouTube channel.

Visible Fictions Theatre Company of Scotland website.

Share the digital version of our full-color Cuesheet with your family before you attend the show!

Read Sydney-Chanele Dawkins’ reviews of shows in the World Stages: International Theater Festival:

The Suit.
Tapioca Inn: Incendios.
Death & the Maiden (La Muerte y La Doncella). 
Savannah Bay.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Penny Plain.
Not by Bread Alone.
Green Snake.
Solomon and Marion.
‘Les Souffleurs Commandos Poetiques.
The Adventures of Robin Hood.

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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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