The play debuted in San Francisco in spring 2014 and is now beginning a country-wide tour, which stops in Chapel Hill today until Jan. 11. Aaron Davidman, the show’s sole actor and writer, plays 17 different characters.
“It’s a personal story about investigating the Israel-Palestine conflict,” he said. “It’s a journey and interview with 17 different people I meet on the journey, and I transform into those voices and you meet the character’s direction.”
Davidman said the overarching theme of the show is a search to understand the other.
“There’s a spiritual dimension and search for meaning and connection to the community,” he said.
Davidman said he hopes students who see “Wrestling Jerusalem” are forced out of their comfort zones.
“It’s entertainment as well as trying to push the boundaries of what we think we know and how they learn about the history and the conflict, and themselves,” he said.
Michael John Garces, the play’s director, said he chose to be involved because he found the subject matter to be relevant to his background. He grew up in Colombia before immigrating to the United States.
“I find the story of an American trying to understand what it means to be American ... in the context of a bigger socio-political dynamic — in this case, Israel — one that’s compelling to me,” Garces said.
Davidman’s personal connections make the play unique.
“Aaron has interwoven his personal story about coming to understanding with what it means to be an American Jew with the stories of the people he encountered in Israel and Palestine and his personal struggles and what’s different about the political situations there,” Garces said.
Jeffrey Meanza, associate artistic director of PlayMakers, said the subject of the play was a good area of discussion.
“Wrestling Jerusalem” is part of a PlayMakers series of plays that are centered on community conversation.
“The goal of the series is to provide a safe space for people to have challenging conversations,” Meanza said.
Davidman said he sought to help people understand a conflict that is often portrayed as black and white.
“I wanted to give experience that I’ve had, as a reminder of our own humanity as we speak of these foreign conflicts that we have huge involvement in,” he said.