Beirut Wedding Makes The Theatrical Change Founders Want To See

By April Baer (OPB)
Oct. 22, 2016 1:45 a.m.
Tiffany Groben as Kelly in Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project's production of "Reborning".

Tiffany Groben as Kelly in Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project's production of "Reborning".

Russell J. Young / Courtesy of Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project

The first production for Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project goes onstage Oct. 28-Nov. 10. Founders Bobby Bermea (Badass Theatre, Baseroots Theatre) and Jamie Rea (Sojourn Theatre) say their intention is to shine a light on the stories of women and people of color. For their inaugural production, they chose Zayd Dorhn's play, "Reborning."

“'Reborning' centers around a young woman who makes reborn dolls,” Rea explained, “which is a real thing — shockingly life-like baby dolls.”

Artists work from a photograph or a video that a parent or grandparent has of a child and replicate all the details, from the weight of a child "down to the little crusty things in their eyes and the tiny little new pores and peach fuzz on the face of their newborn."

The doll-maker, Kelly, is clearly a haunted woman. She's an orphan still coming to terms with a past full of violence and unmet needs. A customer named Emily shows up, a little too eager for a replica of a baby she lost. Kelly is launched into a spiral of confusion, latching onto the idea that it's no accident Emily walked into her life.

Bermea says he loves the show's balance of spooky themes with a frankly sexy veneer.

Bermea says he loves the show's balance of spooky themes with a frankly sexy veneer.

Courtesy of Beirut Wedding World Theatre Project

"I really love art that's about the mystery of creation," Bermea said. "I love that this particularly compulsive client is starting to make Kelly lose her grip on reality.

The name of the theater company, Bermea said, "comes from a photograph I saw years ago and it was a picture of a man and a woman who had just gotten married … walking through the bombed out streets of Beirut, Lebanon. The caption to this picture said that the woman was Muslim and the man was Christian. I remember looking at the photograph and thinking, 'Man, this is what I want my art to say.'"

That act of communion in the fact of absolute desolation stayed with him.

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"Later on," Rea said, "we learned that that couple was specifically part of a movement in that region to develop relationships and marry across religious lines and an active, creative protest against the religious wars that were ripping their country apart."

We talked to Rea and Bermea about Beirut Wedding a few days after the shootings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and five police officers in Dallas. So we asked them if the turmoil in the country had any affect on what they wanted their work to say.

Bermea said, "It just feels like in general we are in the middle of defining who our country for the next hundred years. Frankly, as a black man, I feel that we always do the love thing and be peaceful about it. A big part of what we want to do [with Beirut Wedding] is to find those points in the human condition where we meet, where we agree."

"Community doesn't mean we are always in communion, and everybody embracing, right?" Rea chimed in.

Bermea says the two of them have very specific ideas about the work that we want to create: "This is our opportunity to do stuff that is important, to do stuff that we want to see, to do stuff that we find entertaining. Actually, a more sanity-saving thing than waiting around for the job that somebody else provides.

Reborning is onstage Oct. 28 through Nov. 10 at Action/Adventure Theatre.