SOMERVILLE — Like many young Jewish adults, Danny Bryck, 26, went on a Birthright trip to Israel to learn more about his Jewish heritage. But instead of heading home after the 10-day tour in late 2012, he stayed for three months to interview Israelis and Palestinians about their identities and connections to the land where they live, exploring the meaning behind the conflict in Israel.
Bryck, a playwright who lives in Somerville and works in Boston as an actor and voice coach, has turned these in-depth interviews into a documentary play. The BU School of Theatre graduate will perform a reading of it March 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown.
“I became interested in the notion of birthright,” he said. “What is a birthright? How do people define this concept for themselves and other people, and how is this connected to the wider situation?”
Bryck interviewed more than 200 people. He began by speaking with other Americans on Birthright, the tour guide, and Israeli soldiers, but then branched out to people he met through family, the theater community and activist community.
“The idea was to talk to people from as many different backgrounds and perspectives as possible,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I spoke with native Israelis, Jewish immigrants to Israel, Palestinians living in Israel, Russian Jewish immigrants to Israel, Ethiopians Jews and Armenians.” Some of the stories surprised him and helped him view Israel in a new way.
“I interviewed a woman who came from Ethiopia when she was a little girl in Operation Moses, a military operation to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel. They were expecting to come to a country where everyone was Jewish, and instead arrived in a country where everyone was white — out of one kind of alienation into another. She had a lot of things to say about the heartbreaking and ironic racism in Israel,” Bryck said.
When he returned to Boston, Bryck began the long process of transcribing and compiling his interviews in order to create a final product. Much like a documentary film, a documentary play uses the real words of people to tell a story.
“The play is entirely based around actual interviews and conversations,” Bryck explained. “Actors bring to life the actual words of another person.”
According to Bryck, the working title of the play, “The River and the Sea,” is another name for the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
“There are so many different names for this land, and all of [them] are so charged,” he said. “If we call it Israel or Palestine or the Occupied Territories, it all has a narrative attached to it.”
Bryck points out that each story questions assumptions about Israel — which was exactly his intention.
“I wanted to use art to inform people,” he explained.
To fund his project, Bryck has turned to Kickstarter, an online crowd-funding forum. To help support his endeaver, visit kickstarter.com. The link will be live through March 28.
After Bryck’s reading of the play in progress, he will continue to edit and refine it before premiering it either in Boston or New York.
“I would really love to tour the play around the U.S., in theaters, colleges, at Jewish organizations and in synagogues, as a way to start a conversation,” Bryck said. “But ultimately, I want to bring it back home so to speak, back to Israel and Palestine, and tour it there.”
To learn about the play/reading and see a video, visit Bryck’s website dannybryck.com: