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Play Reaches Out to Cleveland's Arab-American Community

The play, “I Call My Brothers,” begins with a car bombing in a large city and explores how an Arab-American man feels for the next 24 hours. 

“It sort of follows him as he deals with all the repercussions of going through the city right after such an attack has happened,” said Evren Odcikin of San Francisco, who is directing the show at Cleveland Public Theatre.

This show opens as immigration issues are in the headlines every day.

“The kind of xenophobia that [the Arab-American] community has been dealing with has been going on for decades,” Odcikin said. “As awful as [the] executive order is; it has put a spotlight on everything that’s been going on.”

Iranian-born actor Salar Ardebili of Chicago plays the main character. He says anyone who has ever felt like an “outsider” can relate to the character.

“Certainly, it amplifies for me because I’m also an immigrant,” Ardebili said.

 This is Lakewood resident Abdelghani Kitab’s first production at Cleveland Public Theatre. He too is an immigrant from Morocco.

“I’ve been in the U.S for seven years now. I am a lawful citizen,” he said. “I went through some moments in this journey that I was looked at as a suspect, just because the way I look.”

Kitab says his character in the play helps remind the leading role who he really is. 

“When I read the story it gives me that hope that there [are] people who will stand for me,” he said.

Cleveland Public Theatre’s mission is to engage with the community and raise social awareness, and this play is part of an effort to better connect with the local Arab-American community. 

Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan says the idea is to “welcome people in not just as audience but as artists.”

He searched for plays that would help make that connection and chose “I Call My Brothers” by Jonas Hassen Khemiri.

The play is onstage now through March 4.

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.