Interview: UofL's Russ Vandenbroucke, and playwrights Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi

On this edition of Sustainability Now!, your host, Justin Mog, takes a seat in the theater for a chat with Russell Vandenbroucke, and playwrights Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi. Russ is a Professor of Theatre Arts ant the Director of UofL's Peace, Justice & Conflict Transformation Program. As part of the transdisciplinary social justice engagement project “Reading Kanafani in Kentucky,” he is currently directing several free community performances Feb. 27 – Mar. 22 of a reading of Ghassan Kanafani's novella "Returning to Haifa,” as translated to the stage by Ismail Khalidi and Louisville-native Naomi Wallace. Ismail & Naomi are also the adaptation team behind the "The Corpse Washer,” a new play about Iraq which premiers at Actors Theatre during the Humana Festival of New American Plays, March 1-April 8.

Thanks to fortuitous scheduling, Louisville hosts these two plays drawn from Arabic literature at the same time. "The Corpse Washer," adapted from Sinan Antoon's Iraqi novel, is billed as "a haunting portrait of an artist’s fight to survive in war-torn Iraq, where life and death are inextricably intertwined.” “Returning to Haifa” is focused on Palestine and the loss of home and involuntary relocation. This project affirms theatre that engages society rather than providing escape from it by blending arts, humanities, and social science to probe the meaning of “home" and its loss through displacement, dispossession, gentrification, and urban renewal. Each 75-minute presentation will be followed by a facilitated conversation in which audiences will reflect on their own experiences with the themes of the play, including the meaning of home.

Naomi Wallace’s other plays―produced in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Middle East―include One Flea Spare, The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek, Things of Dry Hours, The Fever Chart, And I and Silence, and Night is a Room. Awards: MacArthur Fellowship, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award, Obie Award and the Horton Foote Prize. Wallace received the inaugural Windham-Campbell Prize in drama and an Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

Ismail Khalidi’s other plays include Truth Serum Blues (Pangea World Theater, 2005), Tennis in Nablus (Alliance Theatre, 2010), Foot (Teatro Amal, 2016), Sabra Falling (Pangea World Theater, 2017), and Dead Are My People (Noor Theatre, 2018). His writing has appeared in numerous anthologies as well as The Nation, Mizna, Guernica, American Theatre and Remezcla. Khalidi has received commissions from The Public Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Noor Theatre and Pangea World Theater. He is currently a visiting artist with Teatro Amal in Chile, and holds an M.F.A. from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

"Returning to Haifa" schedule of performances:

Feb. 27, 5:30 p.m., LFPL Western Library, 604 S. 10th St.

Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., LFPL Iroquois Library, 601 W. Woodlawn Ave.

March 1, 7:30 p.m., Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, 1293 Bardstown Rd.

March 6, 6:30 p.m., LFPL South Central Regional Library, 7300 Jefferson Blvd.

March 20, noon, UofL Kornhauser Library, Preston Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard

March 21 and 22, 7:30 p.m., UofL Thrust Theatre, 2314 S. Floyd Street (at University Blvd.)

For more information contact Russ Vandenbrouke at 502-852-8448 or

Tickets and more information about “The Corpse Washer” is at

As always, our interview is followed by your community action calendar for the week, so get your calendars out and get ready to take action for sustainability NOW!

Sustainability Now! airs on FORward Radio, 106.5fm, WFMP-LP Louisville, every Monday at 6pm and repeats Tuesdays at 12am and 10am. Find us at

Source: Interview: UofL's Russ Vandenbroucke, and playwrights Naomi Wallace & Ismail Khalidi (Sustainability Now!, FORward Radio 106.5fm, Feb. 25, 2019)