Playwright profiles: Noelle Ghoussaini

14 Oct

BTSblog presents you the playwrights of the first Between the Seas staged readings event.

Noelle Ghoussaini is an American-Lebanese playwright, director and arts educator. She received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Performance Studies and French and her MA in Arts Politics from NYU. Over the past few years, she has worked for numerous non-profit arts organizations in Chicago and New York City, teaching theatre, dance, photography and playwriting. After completing her Masters in May, she traveled to Palestine where she taught dance at the Freedom Theatre in the
Jenin Refugee Camp. She is currently working as an assistant director for Brave New World Theatre Company and Culture Project. She is also directing Marjuan Canady’s one woman show, Girls? Girls! Girls, which opens at the United Solo Festival in November of this year. She is thrilled to have her third original play, Ruth and the Great Gust of Wind, included in the Between the Seas festival.

Writing Ruth and the Great Gust of Wind
After graduating from college, about 3 years ago, I knew I wanted to write a historical narrative. I began searching for ideas, themes, historical figures that inspired me. I was struck, therefore, when my sister-in-law’s father told me about his aunt, Ruth Reynolds, who was born and raised in South Dakota, but dedicated the majority of her life to the struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico. I quickly learned that there was a large archival section of the Centro de Estudios Puertoriquenos at Hunter College dedicated to her story, with over 40 boxes of first hand documents and over a hundred hour long interviews with Ruth transcribed, detailing her involvement in the Puerto Rican independence movement. I began the research process immediately. Not only did I use the information gathered at the library, but I took two trips to Puerto Rico to attend meetings, interview former Nationalists, historians and friends of Ruth. None of this research, however, could have been done without Blanca Vazquez, a professor at Hunter College and the woman who interviewed Ruth in the 1980s for the Centro’s Oral History project. She knew Ruth well and has supported this project with incredible dedication since its inception. I have since spent the past year and a half writing the script, which has gone through many incarnations. I organized readings and directed scenes from the play at NYU, but Between the Seas Festival is the first time an audience will hear the play in its entirety. The play is deeply rooted in historical truths, and although I have taken certain liberties in developing the drama of the story, the characters, events and facts represented in the play are closely unified with the information I gathered from my research.

How did you get into playwriting and what is the type of theater you are interested in?

Although I did not officially begin my work as a playwright until college, I think storytelling has always been in my blood. Since a very young age, I have always loved being part of the process of telling stories through performance. I started off as an actor at age 5, then director at age 16 and eventually moved into the territory of playwriting. I believed and continue to believe in the power of stories to open new spaces in people’s imagination and to question traditional representations of history and identity. I am particularly interested in theatre’s potential to examine and re-imagine cross-cultural dialogue within a political, social and economic context. Theatre that pushes the boundaries and defies conventions.

What does the Mediterranean mean to you?

The Mediterranean sparks ephemeral thoughts and images of my childhood. It means visiting family in Lebanon and long days near the water. It links me to my ancestors, the Phoenicians, who sailed its seas, thousands of years ago. And it ties me to the Middle Eastern nations that reside along its waters, and Arab peoples that have suffered deeply due political instability, oppression, apartheid and colonialism.

Noelle’s play RUTH AND THE GREAT GUST OF WIND will be featured in the Between the Seas staged readings, on Tuesday October 19th, 8-10 pm at Solas Bar [232 East 9th str.]

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