Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking with today’s Spotlight edutainer, Saria Idana, creator of Homeless In Homeland. Saria is a theater, literary and music artist, committed to freedom of expression as a means to develop action connection and intimacy. Her work focuses on personal and global struggle in conjunction with human resiliency. She has worked with theater and dance companies in New York and Los Angeles including La Mama ETC, WE GOT ISSUES, Great Leap, Contra-Tiempo and the Moving Torah Company. Her poetry has been featured in print and on audio compilations. As a vocalist and lyricist, she is currently putting together a neo-soul fusion band to perform both new and older material. Her album, co-produced by Alcendor, of original poetry and music compositions about Jewish identity and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was released on July 1st 2012, and is available on iTunes and CD Baby.
We asked Saria about her show Homeless In Homeland and the things that she is excited about.
What’s giving you energy these day?
That is an unusual and refreshing question! The things currently bringing me energy are my students, my current music collaborations and the enthusiasm that my spoken word album is finally out. The album is definitely a milestone!It inspires me hear the words and wisdoms of young folks, and to give them support in crafting their expression both on the page and in performance. I am currently leading a workshop intensive for a crew of young ladies from SOTA the fine arts high school in San Francisco, who are a delight to work with. I am also putting together a band to play both new material and material from my spoken word album that just dropped. It brings me fresh perspective to start collaborating musically with new folks.
Last but definitely not least, I am super energized by the release of this album! I collaborated with the fabulous sonic architect and music maker Alcendor to co-produce the project. He and I had no idea how long it would take to complete. We spent a lot of time to carefully craft both sound design and music that fit the project. Now having it released to the public feels both exciting and liberating.
What is Homeless In Homeland and how did it come about?
HOMELESS IN HOMELAND is my body of work about urban Jewish American identity, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the search for home. It is both a solo theater show and an album. Some of the material is in both, some is only in the show, some is only on the album. Overall the material is based on a trip I took a few years ago to Israel and the occupied West Bank. Parallel to that journey is the quest to understand the ideas of home and American multi-cultralism while embracing Jewish identity that includes standing for human rights for all people including the rights of Palestine. In the subtext there are some romance and gender issues that mainly tie in with the themes of home and multi-culturalism.
The show, directed by Shyamala Moorty, is a documentary theater piece, in a hip-hop theater style, in which I play seventeen characters, use seven forms of cultural dance, sing and weave spoken word with monologue. I have performed the show for about two years at theaters and colleges around the country.
The album has both sound design and original music. Some tracks are spoken word and sounds from the region; other tracks are purely beats and song. In general the album focuses more on my own thoughts and experiences, since it is hard to play seventeen characters on an album!
This multifaceted project came about because I ask a lot of questions; this is a fairly common Jewish pastime that I have been known to indulge in. It became clear to me that I was creating this album and solo show while I was part of a year long arts and activism leadership training for young women in Brooklyn. It was called WE GOT ISSUES and was lead by Rha Goddess, Jlove Calderon and Marla Teyolia. Rha’s compassionate and fierce mentorship coupled with the sisterhood of the other women in the training, propelled me into this work.
Who do you reach through performance theater that may not otherwise get exposed to your perspective?
This is a great question that I am constantly asking myself. There are a lot of different kinds of people attracted to solo theater and spoken word. There is a wholly separate set of people attracted to this subject matter. In general theatergoers tend to be of an older generation, so I believe they often learn a younger and perhaps less conservative perspective. In my experience, the hip-hop community rallies around justice for the oppressed which has caused them to develop a distain for Israel as a nation. This audience not only learns both a lot of facts about the conflict that could definitely solidify their distain, but they also learn how complex and delicate these issues are for young justice-seeking Jews, as well as for peace-building Israelis. The material, and the solo show in particular, aim to authentically and compassionately tell the stories of real people, so I believe anyone who has been ignorant to the humanity of either Palestinians or Israelis learns both fact and perspective. I believe the show asks audiences to fully listen and engage in the stories of others, both in the play and in their own lives, and to search for a sense of comfort and resiliency within themselves.
Do you consider your work edutainment and why does it work?
YES! As a native New Yorker, I have been down with KRS One’s Edutainment philosophy for as far back as I can remember.
To me entertainment is performance, literature or media that plays to the emotional expectations or vulnerability of an audience. Education is the imparting and digestion of knowledge. The union of these two things is Edutainment and this is the intention of all of my work, even my love songs. Edutainment works because when you drop knowledge on someone when they are emotionally engaged, they are more likely to digest it.
HOMELESS IN HOMELAND works for a number of reasons. First, I take my craft as a writer, performer and recording artist very seriously. Second, because even though the material is super heavy, I have found moments of humor and joy which makes it all more digestible. Finally, HIH is accessible to all kinds of people because the material comes from a deeply personal place but still contains a laundry list of facts, images and first-hand stories that are absent from mainstream media.
What is your dream?
My personal dream is to surround myself with talented likeminded people who inspire me as I continue to do my work.
My big dream is that a new respect and embodiment of the divine feminine be integrated into every aspect of society. This energy has been suppressed and misunderstood since ancient times. When men can admire the feminine in themselves as well as in women, when woman can admire the masculine in themselves and others, the world will come into a dynamic state of balance. I believe this kind of balance would resolve most conflicts on all levels; interpersonal, political, cultural and environmental. This dream is the underlying intention in all I do.
For more information on Saria Idana and Homeless in the Homeland, check out http://sariaidana.com.