shalom  salaam  peace

Same Difference Interfaith Alliance

at The West Side Center for Community Life, Inc.

263 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024     212.362.3179

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In response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the resulting religious and ethnic tensions in America, members of The Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York joined with the American Sufi Muslim Association and Muslims Against Terrorism to create an Interfaith Service of Dialogue, Peace and Reconciliation. Based on their years of Off-Broadway experience, the creators transformed the service into Same Difference, a performance piece based on interviews with more than a hundred New Yorkers of different faiths, ages, ethnicities and political points of view, and featuring music, words, and dance. Same Difference played to sold-out audiences in New York City this past January.

Same Difference dramatized and molded the voices of the interviews into a powerful text, similar to Anna Deavere Smith's dramaturgy in Fires in the Mirror and Twilight, Los Angeles 1992. The performance of ten actor-singer-dancers tapped into the fears, angers, desires and dreams of New Yorkers during this unsettling time. The result was a beautiful and brutally honest theatrical experience ending on a note of hope for reconciliation in the future.

We propose to extend the reach of Same Difference to a national audience by collaborating with its creative team to remount the theatrical production, which will be revised for the purposes of this documentary. The resulting film will be a layered tapestry, part theatrical presentation, part documentary. The main thread of the film, composed of key selections from the original play mixed with new documentary footage shot throughout the rich and diverse ethnic communities of New York's five boroughs, will portray a city struggling with its psyche after the traumatic events of 9/11.

We will track the process of creating the performance, from the interfaith interviews that serve as its primary source material to showing its impact on multiethnic and religious audiences at schools, churches, mosques, and synagogues.

Woven throughout will be the story of the creative individuals, women and men of different faiths, determined not only to bring New York's and America's struggle to light, but to aid in a process of reconciliation and healing. The story of the diverse creative team behind the play provides a sympathetic counterpoint to the story of the play itself as the principals relate how they came together and how they created the vision of the work.

Documentary Film Treatment - in alliance with Faith & Values Media

Same Difference, a sixty-minute documentary for television, will provide an extraordinary passage through the heart of contemporary America. Based on a successful Off-Off-Broadway stage presentation of the same name, the film will explore both the religious and racial fissures cracked open by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the commonalities that bind Americans of all faiths together.

Though America is perhaps the most tolerant country in the world, our nation remains troubled by religious, racial and ethnic tensions that are rarely spoken about openly. Same Difference aims to break down this wall of silence as a means of creating a path toward greater understanding.

The film will document the creation of a theater piece designed by a religiously diverse, multi-racial group of students. We'll watch as they immerse themselves in their local community to conduct a series of candid interviews plumbing people's feelings and experiences: What is it like to be a young Muslim woman in America today? How do you feel when you hear Arabic spoken by your neighbors? Do you feel certain films or other programs (such as The Passion of the Christ) exacerbate anti-Semitism among Christians?

From these in-depth interviews our group will set about creating their theater piece, replete with original music and dance. We"ll watch as they collaborate to bring meaning and order to the raw interviews and develop a series of explosive, evocative scenes. The film will document their creative crucible as they sift and argue over the powerful material they have collected. We might meet a young actor such as Yazmin originally from Yemen who has been struggling over whether or not to wear the veil. In the conflicts of a young Hasidic Jew who has been interviewed she sees reflected a mirror of her own experience. Or Laura, a young secular Christian woman who believes traditional religious beliefs such as Yazmin's or those of her fundamentalist family are at the root of America's problems.

Finally, we'll watch as this diverse group of young Americans rehearse and then perform their piece for a live audience that will include those whose words form the play. A discussion afterwards between actors and audience, captured by our camera, proves to be a deeply emotional and cathartic experience for the community.

In tracking this ongoing process, the film will create and embrace an open and honest interfaith dialogue, one that can be replicated across the country. And as the students use their theatrical presentation to understand their world, so the film will use the creation of the play, interweaving its scenes with footage of its development to provide a larger television audience with an in-depth look at America's religious hopes and fears, the failures and successes of our national and local communities. It is a portrait at times searing and painful, at others joyous and uplifting, but ultimately, a critical step on the road to understanding.

To Production Personnel

Treatment for completed film trailer




® 2003 Same Difference Alliance. All rights reserved.

Created: 6/26/03       Revised: 08/01/2003