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EXCLUSIVE: Emerging Playwright, Natasha Greenblatt, Talks 'The Peace Maker'

The Dora-award winning actress has written her first full-length play, 'The Peace Maker', premiering in Toronto on Jan. 3rd.

By: Sarah Bauder
Published: January 2nd, 2013 in Culture » Stage » Interviews
Natasha Greenblatt
'The Peace Maker' Production Still
Dora-award winning thespian, Natasha Greenblatt, has made quite a name for herself as an emerging talent in theatre, television, and film. Now Greenblatt has written her first full-length play, The Peace Maker, which will be part of The Next Stage Festival at Factory Theatre Mainspace from January 3 to 13th 2013.

For ticket info, visit, www.fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/listings/the-peace-maker/.

Recently, Shalom Life was able to chat with Greenblatt about The Peace Maker.

What inspired you to pen your first play after being on stage as an actress for several years?

I had written a solo show that I performed at SummerWorks, 2008. It was a one-woman show and was a very personal story about loss. After that, I’d been a part of a theatre creators group at Theatre Passe Muraille called Upstarts, in which I created a collective show with Mitchell Cushman and Johnnie Walker, two amazing theatre makers in Toronto. So I’d been writing and creating theatre for a while, but it was going to Israel and Palestine and the emotional impact of the people I met and stories I heard while I was there that inspired me write this full length play with six characters and eight musicians!

Do you believe your experience as an actress gave you a different perspective while writing for stage?

I think it helps, especially in rehearsals. I have been very present at rehearsals, cutting and trimming and fine-tuning. I think as an actor it’s easier to put myself into my actor’s position, in terms of knowing what makes a line active, and finding places when they could just play the line instead of having to say it.

If you had to summarize The Peace Maker in one sentence, what would you say?

From a Birthright Trip to the camps in Nablus, The Peace Maker explodes with live music and contradiction as a Canadian visitor tries to bring peace to the Middle East in all the wrong ways.

Why did you choose not to act in the play that you wrote?


I wanted to be able to bring this play to life from the outside. When you’re acting your focus is, and should be, much narrower. Also, I’m not as good a musician as Rebecca Auerbach (who plays the role I would play if I was in it) and it’s important that she’s a good musician.

Music plays a huge role in The Peace Maker - can you tell us why?

The inspiration for The Peace Maker is a real life story about a Palestinian-Israeli music teacher that brought a Palestinian Youth Orchestra from the West Bank to Israel, to play for Holocaust survivors. So music was a key factor in the plot from the beginning. But it soon became a major part of the structure of the play as well, using the form to examine the idea that music can bring us together: Seven musicians play both Israeli youth and Palestinian youth, which highlights the fact that these kids are heavily defined by their circumstances.

The story of The Peace Maker all began with a Birthright trip. Can you share some of your most poignant experiences on Birthright, and the journey you subsequently took?

Birthright was a very intense experience. Traveling by bus with 38 other young people all over Israel over the course of 10 days was exhausting, emotionally and physically. The day the soldiers that accompanied the trip arrived they took us on a surprise visit to an army base in the Negev, and we were taken to see Apachi Helicopters. Some of the other participants climbed into them and had their picture taken. This was in Febuary of 2009, right after Cast Lead, so it was very scary and alarming for us to see these weapons so close up, and to see our trip mates having so much fun clambering all over them. It was also amazing to have a chance to talk to these soldiers, and hear their perspectives. We spent a lot of time in intense conversations and debates with them.
After Birthright, I went to Nablus in the West Bank, and worked as a volunteer at an NGO called Project Hope. I taught drama with my friend Amy for 2 months. We would travel by taxi all over the city and the surrounding villages and refugee camps. It was really striking passing through checkpoints to get to villages right next door to each other. One day we were crossing a checkpoint just outside of Nablus to get to a village called Huwarra nearby, and we were showing a young soldier our passports and he said in perfect English, "Where are you guys from in Canada? I’m from Toronto, Young and Davisville."

After you debut The Peace Maker in Toronto, where does it go from there?


We don’t know yet! We are just trying to make this the best production it can be, and then see what happens.

Are you currently working on any other projects?


I just finished shooting Bomb Girls, a Canadian television show on Global, where I play Meg Tilly’s daughter. It airs on January 2nd. And I am facilitating the Creator’s Unit at Paprika, a theatre festival for people between the ages of 15-21. I’m also going to direct my first play in the spring as part of The Playwright Project, an exciting new festival that presents short plays by a one playwright in off-venues all across Toronto, last year the playwright was Tennessee Williams, and they haven’t announced this year’s playwright yet, so I can’t say…

You initially traveled to Israel/Palestine to explore and discover/define your role as a Jew. Were you able to answers the questions you sought answers for?

I came back with more questions then when I left. But I knew that I had to write about it. A man was working in a cultural centre in a refugee camp near Bethlehem said to me: “The most important part happens when you get home. Talk about what you saw. Tell the truth.” I have been working on this play for four years now and I hope it tells the truth of my experience. And, although it doesn’t have any answers, I hope it asks some interesting and important questions.
Related articles: Theater, Dora Awards, Toronto, Factory Theatre, Natasha Greenblatt, The Next Stage Theatre Festival, The Peace Maker, Israel, Palestine
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