Friday, November 05, 2004

Chicago Premiere of "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey," Nov. 26-Dec. 12, 2004

The Chicago Premiere of "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey,"
Starring "Human Beatbox" Yuri Lane,
In 11 Performances Only, Nov. 26- Dec. 12, 2004

Contact: Beth Silverman/Caroline Krajewski
The Silverman Group, Inc.
(312) 932-9950
For Immediate Release
The Viaduct Theater Proudly Presents

Nov. 3, 2004 – "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey," a funny, engaging look at everyday life amidst the Israeili-Palestinian conflict, starring "human beatbox" Yuri Lane, will have its Chicago Premiere at the Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western Avenue, in 11 performances only, Nov. 26-Dec. 12, 2004.

The press performance is set for Monday, Nov. 29, 2004, at 7p.m.

"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" is the result of a revolutionary collaboration between Lane, a Jewish "human beatbox;" writer/director Rachel Havrelock, the religion scholar who happens to be his wife; and Sharif Ezzat, a Muslim video artist. Inspired by the "ordinary people" encountered by Lane and Havrelock on a journey from Tel Aviv to Ramallah at the beginning of the Intifada, Lane brings to life 15 unforgettable characters -- each materializing as a three-dimensional person with an individual beatbox soundtrack over the course of 60 minutes.

This spellbinding hip-hop theater piece also features live "sets" generated by Ezzat, whose shifting visual projections are timed according to Lane’s hypnotic beatbox, "vocal percussion" soundtrack.

"While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is topical, this is not at all a politically divisive play and there’s no background reading required to attend," quipped Havrelock. "Our goal is to utilize Yuri’s amazing ability as a ‘human instrument’ to produce a soundscape of everyday life and culture in the Middle East."

Taking audiences beyond the sterile headlines and detached news reports, the play presents a vibrant and complex portrait of daily life in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first narrative drama performed in beatbox, "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" revolves around a day in the life of Amir, a Tel Aviv dj and delivery boy, and Khalid, a Ramallah internet café owner whose parallel lives are separated by an invisible barrier at center stage. Over the course of the day, the young Israeli and Palestinian strive to realize their visions of fame and fortune, yet encounter the distinct ways in which political conflict negates youthful dreams. Lane portrays Khalid, Amir, and their respective Westernized friends, extremist friends, mothers and cities with the precision of a seasoned solo performer and the beats of a hip-hop superstar.

Although raised amidst the counter-culture of Haight-Asbury, where he learned rhythm and break dancing by osmosis, Lane is a classically trained actor, whose career began at age 12 at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. The rest of his teen and young adult years were spent on stage and screen, earning him valuable memberships in Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild. He created his first one-man beatbox musical, "Soundtrack City," in 2001. Lane and Havrelock recently relocated from San Francisco to Chicago, where Lane continues to hone his craft and Havrelock serves as a professor of Jewish Studies and Religion at the University of Illinois-Chicago.


The play was born after Lane and Havrelock traveled through Israel and the West Bank together in 1999. In Tel Aviv, the couple tuned into the suppressed fear and exterior toughness of young Israelis and spent nights dancing until dawn to deejays spinning utopian visions on pulsating dance floors.

Bypassing the option of riding with settlers on smooth and restricted asphalt, Lane and Havrelock traveled by bus to East Jerusalem where they picked up a shared taxi to Ramallah. There, they stayed in the villa of a multigenerational family that stuffed them with Arabic delicacies and guided them around the city between curfews. Their memories of Ramallah include warm chickpeas sold on the street, leisurely hookahs on rooftops overlooking the rolling desert and a crowded internet café filled with smoke and dreams of post-Intifada livelihood.
On the return trip, the Jewish-American couple intersected with an anti-occupation riot, but found themselves watching the footage that night on TV in Tel Aviv.

Havrelock, who wrote and directed "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah," was struck by the similarity of the cultures in both cities despite the impenetrable border between them. At the same time, performer Lane heard a symphony of street rhythms that he began to mirror in beatbox form.

While attempting to narrate their adventure in the U.S., they conceived of a beatbox play that crosses the divide between Israelis and Palestinians and portrays the everyday dimension of the geopolitical reality. The medium of hip-hop theater was familiar to them through their previous collaboration, "Soundtrack City: A Beatbox Musical." Their work on that show had introduced them to the visual genius of multi-media artist Sharif Ezzat.

"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" debuted as a short work at the 2003 NYC Hip-Hop Theater Festival; was workshopped at Spanganga in San Francisco’s Mission District; and had its World Premiere at Theater J in Washington D.C. for which it earned a "Best New Play" nomination from the Helen Hayes Awards. "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah" has toured in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and New Jersey.


"From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey" will be performed at the Viaduct Theater from Friday, Nov. 26- Sunday, Dec. 12: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 7 p.m. All tickets are $15, and can be reserved by calling 773-296-6024.

The Viaduct Theater, located at 3111 N. Western Avenue, was founded in 1997 by Robert Whitaker and Whitney Blakemore to produce and present new and original events in theater, film, art, and music.

Its recent production history includes critically acclaimed Chicago premieres of Denis Johnson's three plays ('Hellhound on My Trail', 'Shoppers Carried by Escalators Into the Flames', and 'Soul of a Whore'); a regular film series titled 'Sloppy Seconds' in conjunction with The Chicago Underground Film Fest (CUFF); and a regular art and music hootenanny by 'MONDO', which is where the talents of Yuri Lane first mesmerized the Chicago public.

The Theater is located under the viaduct, one block south of the Western/Belmont/Clybourn intersection, on the east side of Western.

For more information on the Viaduct Theater or "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah," please call 773-296-6024 or visit

Audio and video samples of Yuri Lane’s work are accessible via