Performer Yuri Lane grew up the son of artists in San Francisco’s then-gritty Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which he found to be good preparation for traveling the West Bank as a Jew.
“I learned a lot about tolerance, and seeing people for who they are, not judging them,” he says. “Also, some street smarts.”
Lane began visiting Israel and the West Bank in the late 1990s, following his girlfriend, now wife, Rachel Havrelock, a religion scholar who studied on both sides of the Green Line that marks Israel’s pre-1967 borders. “From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey,” their “hip-hop travelogue,” plays Saturday at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton.
“It’s not a political statement but a message of peace that starts and ends at a checkpoint,” Lane says.
While the couple did not exactly broadcast their Jewishness while in the West Bank, they say they never really experienced fear, either, as they navigated the cultural divide on repeated visits. Right away, Lane began to feel the beat of the streets.
“It just kind of opened me up, just being Jewish in Israel . . . and also traveling across the Green Line and seeing a lot of similarities between Tel Aviv and Ramallah,” he says in a phone interview. “The night life and the jazz cafes and places where people can smoke water pipes and hang out, listening to the sounds of music, from sped-up Bedouin music to hip-hop.
“I really just tried to be a sponge,” he says.
Lane performs “From Tel Aviv to Ramallah,” which Havrelock wrote and directs.
“Yuri brings the material to me, impressions and beats and characterizations, and performs that for me . . . and I sculpt that into a coherent story,” she explains in a separate conversation.
The show has 15 characters but focuses on the lives of Amir, a DJ and delivery man in Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-largest city, and Khalid, who owns an Internet cafe in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Both find their dreams in conflict with the daily realities of their environment. Eventually their paths cross at that checkpoint. Lane embodies all the characters, differentiating them with voice, movement, and beatboxing.
In 2003, Lane and Havrelock debuted the hourlong piece in collaboration with their friend, Egyptian-American video artist Sharif Ezzat, who provides live background projections.
Lane is best known for his harmonica beatboxing, which has been a YouTube hit. His new live show is “MeTube,” a multimedia performance about the experience of going viral. Havrelock’s work focuses on the Hebrew Bible and the history of its interpretation. She studied at Tel Aviv University and also at Birzeit University, outside Ramallah. The couple, both 40, live now in Chicago, where Havrelock is an associate professor of Jewish studies and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“From Tel Aviv to Ramallah” has played all over the United States, including performances for both Jewish and Muslim groups. It resonates with a variety of audiences, Lane says: “African-American teenagers don’t necessarily understand the conflict there, but they know what it means to cross a border.”
The show has also played small venues in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They would like to perform it in Ramallah, but “it is very challenging for a Palestinian to do a show partnering with an American Jew,” Lane says.
“I thought that after a certain time the show would lose its relevance,” he adds, “but, depending on who you speak with, the situation hasn’t gotten better.”
North Shore unveils season lineup
The box office opens Sunday at 9 a.m. for the 2012 North Shore Music Theatre season. The five subscription-series musicals are “Hello, Dolly!” starring Lorna Luft (June 12-24), “Annie” (July 17-29), “All Shook Up,” (Aug. 14-26), “9 to 5: The Musical” (Sept. 24-Oct. 7), and “Guys and Dolls” (Oct. 30-Nov. 11). Also returning is the annual production of “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 7-23) with David Coffee as Scrooge. The Summer Fairy Tale Musical Series offers five one-hour productions presented by Kaleidoscope Children’s Theatre. Subscriptions and gift certificates are on sale now, and single tickets go on sale Sunday at 978-232-7200, www.nsmt.org, and 62 Dunham Road, Beverly.
At Central Square in 2012-13
The fifth season of Cambridge’s Central Square Theater features five shows by the Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater. Women in science are the focus of Sarah Treem’s “The How and the Why,” a New England premiere running Sept. 27-Oct. 21 in a Nora production. The two resident companies will bring back their IRNE Award-winning joint production of “Arabian Nights,” adapted by Dominic Cooke, Nov. 23-Dec. 30.
Underground Railway will present “Blue Door” by Tanya Barfield Jan. 10-Feb. 3, 2013, and the Nora will stage “Operation Epsilon” by Alan Brody March 7-April 28, 2013. “Distracted,” by Lisa Loomer, will run May 9-June 2, 2013, in a production by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, the science-theater initiative of Underground Railway and the university.
Subscriptions are on sale at 617-576-9278 and www.centralsquaretheater.org. Single tickets go on sale in August.
The theater has also roughly doubled the run of the current season’s final show, “Car Talk: The Musical!!!” Presented by Underground Railway and Suffolk University, it will now play June 14-Aug. 12. The show, celebrating the Cambridge-based NPR hit, was written and directed by Suffolk theater professor Wesley Savick with music by Michael Wartofsky. It had a short run at the Modern Theatre last year.