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Playwright reaches into past for a better future

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A world premiere of the play “Paloma” explores how individuals can give peace a chance in a troubled post-9/11 world.

“It’s a 21st-century play,” says playwright Anne García-Romero, an assistant professor of theater at the University of Notre Dame. “The overarching theme is, how do we find peace in the present? Through love, understanding and learning about our cultural and religious differences.”

She says she was inspired to write the play after reading “Ring of a Dove,” an 11th-century Muslim-Spanish treatise on love by Ibn Hazm. What intrigued her was the idea of convivencia, a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed peacefully in 11th-century Spain.

If you go
WHAT: “Paloma”
WHEN: Opens Friday, July 20. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 5
WHERE: National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 Fourth SW, Wells Fargo Auditorium
HOW MUCH: $17 general admission with a $3 discount for students, seniors, NHCC and Albuquerque Theatre Guild members. Available online at www.nhccnm.org

In the play that runs for three weekends at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Ibrahim, a Moroccan-American and practicing Muslim played by Abraham Jallad, falls in love with Paloma, a woman of Puerto Rican descent and nominal Catholic, played by Lena Armstrong, while they study ancient Muslim Spain at New York University in 2003.

The couple soon travels to Spain, where they grapple with their religious differences as tragedy strikes. The play also toggles between various months in 2004 as Ibrahim and Jared, his friend and lawyer of the Jewish faith, played by Ron Weisberg, face legal ramifications resulting from Ibrahim and Paloma’s relationship.

García-Romero says she’s delighted with the director and the cast who are the same ethnicity as the characters they play. “The actors bring the play to the next level of development,” she says.

Director Gil Lazier says he’s pleased to direct “Paloma.” “I liked the play immediately. It’s very well written. It affected me deeply and reminded me of other stories of great love, like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘Tristan and Isolde’ or ‘Abelard and Heloise.’ Some form of prejudice keeps the lovers apart. They have to work through that to keep the love and that’s this play.”

Linda López McAlister, the president and artistic director of Camino Real Productions, the NHCC’s in-house theater company, says she has been following Garcia-Romero’s work for many years. “Paloma,” a character-driven play that reflects Hispanic culture, was a great fit for the company. “It seemed absolutely perfect,” she says.

Additionally its focus on the period of convivencia when people of differing beliefs lived in harmony is depicted in Frederico Vigil’s mural in the Torreón at the NHCC, where he’s painted a portrait of the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides and his contemporary Muslim philosopher, Averroes, sitting together in 11th-century Cordova, Spain, she says. The Torreón is open on Sundays.

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