The First floor Theatre
February 13 - 29, 2004
Thursday - Saturday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm

conceived and directed by Abla Khoury
lighting design Federico Restrepo
featuring live:
Sara Galassini (Italy),
Denise Greber (USA),
Marjorie Jean (USA)
& Federico Restrepo (Colombia)
featuring on videotape:
Zishan Ugurlu (Turkey),
Abla Khoury (Lebanon),
Najla Said (Palestine),
Patrick Ssenjovu (Uganda),
Valois (USA)
& Chris Wild (USA)

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 festivals.

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 this feeling.

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 dissolves, irrevocably.

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, France.

"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.

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