A look at the way our cultural backgrounds dictate who we are and fuel the stereotypes that trap us

August 30 at 8:00 PM, August 31 at 9:00 PM, September 1 at 9:00 PM, September 2 at 9:00 PM, September 4 at 9:00 PM, September 6 at 8:00 PM, September 7 at 9:00 PM, September 8 at 9:00 PM, September 9 at 9:00 PM, September 10 at 9:00 PM.
Theater for the New City (Cabaret Theater), 155 First Ave.
Presented by Theater for the New City (Crystal Field, Artistic Director) as part of the Dream Up Festival 2015.
Tickets $20
Box office: (212) 254-1109,
Runs: 1 hr 30 mins. Critics are invited to all performances.
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NEW YORK, August 21 -- "Invasion!" seeks to explore the way geographical and ethnic boundaries divide and define us, and is the Dream Up Festival's only international play. Written by Jonas Hassen Khemiri and translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, it is a meta-theatrical orientalist critique on ethnic stereotypes of people from South Asia and the Middle East. It unleashes a tornado of words, images and ideas, all centered around a magical name: Abulkasem. At once funny, disturbing and poignant, this deeply subversive play deconstructs concepts of the "Other" and forces us to confront our own cultural identities. "Invasion!" was first produced in the original Swedish at the Stockholms Stadsteater in Stockholm, Sweden, running from March 2006 to January 2008. The play has continued to evolve through performances in New York City that have helped it reach its current form. It will be presented by Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival August 30 to September 10. Directed by Hafiz Karmali and performed by newly formed theater company Drama Wallah.

The scenes are vignettes that show the way complete strangers can become interconnected and unknowingly influence one another. Every other scene returns us to an expert panel trying to track the mysterious figure Albulkasem, who they describe as the "greatest threat to our common future" and who has been labeled a terrorist, collaborator, and enemy combatant. The scenes in between show the way the name Albulkasem is appropriated by different characters and comes to represent everything from an adjective to a way of life to an alter-ego. The language is at times stream of consciousness, other times like poetry, and even capable of bringing to life characters' memories before our eyes. "Invasion!" is concerned with the associations and assumptions we make using language, and the misunderstandings these can lead to. We see the way people are influenced by media reporting on the Middle East and South Asia and the way it creates a new and biased vocabulary that permeates all areas of society. For instance, in one scene a character chooses to speak in Arabic to allow for a more accurate telling of his story, and the entire time the words are filtered through an interpreter on stage. While the interpreter starts out by translating word for word, soon she starts to rewrite his story and manipulate the words to conform who he is to stereotypes about his culture.

The characters struggle to confront their own cultural heritage and reconcile it with the identities they have crafted living in the western world. The idea of cultural appropriation is further explored by the fact that the same characters play multiple parts that represent various ethnic backgrounds. The story is creatively put together, focusing on the power of narration and storytelling but subverting our expectations by referencing and deconstructing its own form. For instance, one character dissects her own monologue and retells a previous scene but from a new perspective. "Invasion!" examines our multicultural world and acknowledges how its diversity inevitably leads to clashes, but also encourages us to take advantage of every opportunity to look at the world through someone else's eyes.

Playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri ( is one of the most important writers of his generation in Sweden. When his debut novel, "One Eye Red" (Ett öga rött) was published in 2003, his eccentric and imaginative prose made a huge splash and reached an audience far beyond traditional literary circles. The book-turned-phenomenon was awarded the Borås Tidning Award for Best Literary Debut Novel and also became an enormous bestseller, selling over 200,000 copies in paperback – the most of any book in Sweden in 2004. Khemiri’s equally original second novel, "Montecore: The Silence of the Tiger" (Montecore – en unik tiger), was published to rave reviews and was awarded the prestigious P.O. Enquist Literary Prize, won Swedish Radio’s Award for Best Novel, and was nominated for the August Award, the highest literary prize in Sweden. Upon its US publication by Alfred A Knopf, The New York Times Book Review dubbed the novel “wondrous.” In 2012, following a terrorist bombing in central Stockholm, Khemiri published the powerful short novel "I Call My Brothers" (Jag ringer mina bröder) to great critical acclaim. Khemiri’s novels have been translated into over a dozen languages. He is also a celebrated playwright, whose six plays have been performed by over fifty international companies on stages from Stockholm to Berlin to New York to London. He was awarded a Village Voice Obie Award for his first play "Invasion!," which premiered in New York in 2011. The second play "God Times Five" toured Sweden and the third play "We Are A Hundred" received the Hedda Award for best play in Norway. Khemiri's most recent play "˜[Almost Equal To]" premiered at Dramaten in Stockholm in October 2014 to rave reviews. It is currently being translated into English, Norwegian, French, German and Icelandic. In 2013, Khemiri’s open letter to the Swedish Minister of Justice in response to the controversial immigration project REVA, which was first published in "Dagens Nyheter," rapidly became one of the most shared articles on social media in Swedish history. The article was later translated into over a dozen languages and published in newspapers around the world, including The New York Times.

The play is directed by Hafiz Karmali, an international theater director mostly based in Paris. After pursuing his M.F.A in Directing at Carnegie Mellon University, he served an apprenticeship at the American Repertory Theatre where he assisted Robert Wilson and Andrei Serban. Karmali favors a highly stylized form of dance-theater that is often inspired by art history and devotional literature, seen in his docu-drama "Ali to Karim: A Tribute to the Ismaili Imams" that tells the story of the Aga Khan and his ancestors. Karmali regards drama as an act of prayer, but this is not to say that his work is without humor. (On the contrary, he believes Muslims today take themselves too seriously and should "get a sense of humor!") His recent production, "Rumi x 7 = Tales from the Masnavi" is performed in circus style featuring clowns and acrobats. Karmali has a special interest in cross-cultural performances showcasing indigenous performing arts of the Islamic world. In 2013, his encounter with South Asian performing artists based in New York City culminated in M.A.D. Playhouse's production of "Half-Hearted" by Mohan Rakesh (Cherry Lane Theatre). This whole-hearted experience continues with the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival ( and the foundation of theater company Drama Wallah.

The cast features Aman Soni, Jackson Goldberg, Gopal Divan, and Mahima Saigal.

The sixth Dream Up Festival ( will be presented by Theater for the New City (TNC) from August 30 to September 20, 2015, offering a lineup of wide-ranging and original theatrical visions embracing drama, musicals, improv, aerial and more. This year, owing to growing popularity, the festival has expanded beyond its primary venue. Previously, all productions were presented at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. This year, 19 productions will be presented at TNC and seven will be presented at an outside venue, The Producers Club Theaters at 358 West 44th Street.

The festival is dedicated to new works. TNC feels this festival is especially needed now in a time of declining donations to the arts, when grants are not being awarded due to market conditions and arts funding is being cut across the country and abroad. The festival aims to push ideas to the forefront through imaginative presentations so as to challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of the way art illuminates the world around us.

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