EXPIRATION DATE, conceived and directed by
director/actress Abla Khoury from Beirut, will be her debut production
in the U.S. The modernist, multimedia production features a multinational
cast and deals with the theme of "psychological expiration."
Ms. Khoury's technique is to evolve plays from improvisations and testimonials,
utilizing the histories and experiences of the people in her casts. This
play is being developed in English for English-speaking audiences. Her
previous plays have dealt with the blurring of fiction and reality.
In October, 2003, La MaMa produced the first Lebanese play on a New York
stage: "The Middle Beast" by Joe Kodeih. "Expiration Date"
will be the second NY production to have originated from that country.
It is a modernist work, typical in style to what you find in world theater
Ms. Khoury is a devotee of theater directors Tadeusz Kantor and Pina
Bausch and film makers Pedro Almodovar and John Cassavetes. She was drawn
to La MaMa since, of all the American theaters, it has the most international
following. She describes "Expiration Date" as "alternative,
even for Lebanon."
The play is set in a casting session: a place where people are certainly
not always not what they seem. A group of actors have been summoned; while
waiting to audition, they are facing a camera on a tripod without anyone
behind it. Are they being filmed? Is it a new kind of audition? Is the
director running a little late, or are they waiting for their own "Godot"?
The actors begin speaking, sometimes speak directly into the camera, and
share real experiences from various parts of the world. Their testimonies
illuminate essential questions about loneliness and diaspora: are we at
home, or are we strangers in a strange land? Are we living at war, or
just in a media experience? Above all, when will our time run out? They
feel like milk cartons with an expiration date, and explore whether it
is their backgrounds, life experiences or social standing which perpetuate
Through choreographed movement, sparse text and live video projection,
the audience sees the actors trying to impress each other, having private
moments, or simply waiting. An unseen live video operator is there, discreetly
moving around, capturing the behavior of the actors as they wait expectantly.
He fast forwards, inserts different videos and replays yesterday's auditions.
The actors are seen talking live and projected on the screen. Sometimes
the projections are live; sometimes they are recorded. The audience is
never sure whether the "waiting actors" are performing or not,
creating stories or telling the truth. The line between reality and fiction
As a film actress, Abla Khoury is known for her roles in (among others)
"West Beirut" (dir. Ziad Doueiry, 1997), presented in the Cannes
Film Festival and several other international festivals, and "Terra
Incognita" (dir. Gassan Salhab, 2001), an official selection of the
2003 Cannes Festival and several international festivals. Her theatrical
roles include plays by Bernard Marie Koltès, Ionesco, Lorca and
a variety of Lebanese playwrights including Elie Karam (who appeared at
La MaMa this fall in "The Middle Beast"). She has appeared in
productions of the Ayloul International Festival, German Orient Institute,
Théâtre de Beyrouth, Experimental Theatre Festival in Cairo
and Arab Cultural Institute in Paris.
Her directing credits include her own play, "Silicone" (2001),
performed at AlMadina theater in association with Ayloul Festival, and
"10/20 Irrelevant" (2003)at Haus De Kulturan Der Welt in Berlin.
She has directed two videos for Lebanese national TV and a fashion show
for Natasha Kalfayen at the "Biennial of Design" in St. Etienne,
"Silicone" was a dance theater piece, radical by Lebanese standards,
in which a mother describes her adjustment to her son's homosexuality.
Al Wassat, an Arabic magazine of arts and politics which is distributed
in both London and Beirut, said that it reflects "a very rare radicalism
in the Arab culture, confronts the aspects of lies, falseness, hypocrisy,
duplicity, and conservatism. It is a radical, delirious, cynical and sore
cry of rejection, in the name of the forbidden desire, and the reality
of the body searching for a different identity." (Pierre Abi Saab)
Khoury came to La MaMa in 2002 as an observer and was mentored by Ellen
Stewart. She interned as production coordinator for two productions of
the Great Jones Repertory, "Draupadi" and "Dionysus Filius
Dei." She has also worked at La MaMa Umbria and was production coordinator
of the world premiere of "9 Windows" by La MaMa resident artist
Federico Restrepo (2002). She has taught acting in France and Lebanon
and is a skilled photographer, film maker and editor. She earned a French
baccalaureate in 1991 from Carmel Saint Joseph in Lebanon and a bachelor
of arts and theater from St. Joseph University (institut d'études
scéniques et audiovisuels), also in Lebanon. She speaks Arabic,
French and English fluently.