“HoUSe invites you to create and engage with the writing on the wall: To respond to it, erase it, or write your own – and in the process, to explore what it means to be(come) American.”
HoUSe was an immersive, interactive exploration of what it means to make a place home. Theater practitioner Leila Buck explored the identity of the United States as “home,” welcoming visitors into the house only after they acquired a project passport and underwent a multi-step process simulating the complexity of entering the country. Once inside, participants responded to questions around how American citizens perceive threats, healing, borders, documentation, and what we want to welcome into our homes.
Leila Buck is a Lebanese American writer, actress, storyteller and teaching artist who has lived, traveled, performed and taught in over 20 Arab and European countries and in China, Australia, and throughout the U.S. Her solo show ISite, about growing up between the U.S. and the Arab World, toured the U.S., Europe and China for more than ten years, and is published in Four Arab American Plays. Her second play, In the Crossing, an ensemble piece about her experience in Lebanon with her Jewish husband during the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006, and the challenges of telling that story on her return, was first performed in the Public’s New Work Now! 2006, The Public Theater, Culture Project-Women Center Stage, and New York Theatre Workshop.
In summer 2014 Leila traveled to her mother’s home city, Beirut, for a residency with Zoukak Theatre Company to lead workshops and develop Hkeelee (Talk to Me), an interactive exploration of her Lebanese grandmother’s loss of memory, immigration to the U.S. and what it means to be(come) American. She has also developed Hkeelee with the support of MAPP International Productions, a Special Jury Prize from the Middle East America grant, Culture Project – WCS, The Arab American National Museum, the Public Theater, and Mosaic Theater in DC, which presented a staged reading of the piece at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and three performances at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. Leila’s shorter/collaborative works include the ten-minute, four-character play Flight 1/23 and the solo piece One, written and performed for Epic’s First Vote event alongside works by Craig Lucas, Neil LaBute, Stephen Belber, Nilaja Sun, and Tony Kushner; Souvenir, created with Palestinian playwright Sami Metwasi for “Aswat: Voices of Palestine” at NYU (2007); and Queen Latina, created with Mixed Company Bi-Cultural Theater Collective (2003). As a founding member and Education Director of Nibras Arab-American Theater Collective and Artistic Director of Nisaa Arab-American Women’s Collective, she edited and performed in Sajjil (Record) -an investigation of what it means to be Arab in America (Winner, Best Ensemble, NY Fringe), and The Panel – a satirical piece based on dialogues with Arab American women (Princeton University – Utopia Station).
As an actress, Leila’s favorite work includes Aftermath, by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank, based on interviews with Iraqi refugees (New York Theatre Workshop/International Tour -Drama League nomination) and Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched (Wilma Theatre -Barrymore Award).
As a teaching artist and facilitator, Leila has been a keynote speaker at SIETAR congresses for intercultural trainers, and conducted workshops on storytelling and drama for cross-cultural engagement at universities, conferences, schools and cultural centers across the U.S. and around the world, and in New York with the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the Arab American Family Support Center, New York Theatre Workshop and Lincoln Center among others.
In 2010-11 Leila was a U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy, using theater to address tensions with Muslim immigrants in Denmark. In September 2014 she returned to Palestine and Israel where she lived in spring and fall 2011 and worked as a State Department Speaker Specialist, using theater and theater of the oppressed techniques to empower Palestinian youth in self-expression/English language skills. In 2014-15 she was artist-in- residence for Wesleyan University’s Doris Duke Foundation Building Bridges grant, teaching and creating a theatrical sharing with students, faculty and community members about the (mis)representation of Muslim women in the U.S. and beyond. In spring 2016 she co-taught a course on Participatory Performance with Kristin Horton at NYU.
In fall 2015 she worked with OCHA to craft and perform the story of Hanan, a Syrian refugee, with photos by Carole Al Farah, for World Humanitarian Day, and in Geneva for the Global Consultation towards the World Humanitarian Summit, where she moderated the plenary panel and led a breakout session on tools for cross-cultural communication in crisis situations. She then performed Hkeelee in Arabic and English in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon as a State Department Speaker Specialist, using drama and storytelling to train educators and students in English, empowerment and self-expression. Leila’s work is published or featured in American Theatre magazine, “Brian Lehrer Live”, Arab News; L’Orient le Jour; Lebanese Broadcast Channel and Al Hurra; Innovation in Five Acts; Four Arab- American Plays, and Etching Our Own Image: Voices from the Arab American Art Movement. M.A. Educational Theatre/Middle East Studies – NYU. Member: Public Theater’s inaugural Emerging Writers Group; Usual Suspect: New York Theatre Workshop.