IT SHOULD COME as no surprise that an Israeli-born director of a play written by an Italian Nobel laureate that retells a Chinese folk tale based on an Indian myth values cultural sensitivity.
Writer, director and actor Ami Dayan has created an adaptation with social responsibility in mind. He also has gone to great lengths to defend his politically charged creative decisions.
A month after a trip to Italy to meet with Nobel Prize-winning playwright Dario Fo to explain his modifications to the ending of Fo's 1979 play, Dayan brings "A Tale of a Tiger" to the Rorschach Theatre. In his first East Coast rendition, Dayan offers the audiences two endings.
For more than a decade, Tel Aviv's Cameri Theatre has been staging Dayan's version. Because of the political situation in Israel in 1994, when he first created it, Dayan altered the play's original ending, which was in effect a call to arms. At the time, he didn't want to provoke violence when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was making strides in the peace movement with the Palestinians.
"A Tale of a Tiger" is a Chinese folk tale about a dying soldier fighting for Mao Zedong against Chiang Kai-shek. When he is wounded and left to die, the soldier finds shelter in a cave inhabited by a tigress and her cub. Instead of eating him, the tigress nurses him back to health. But when he gets better, the tigress develops a taste for cooked meat and makes an unwilling chef out of the soldier, who eventually tires of the arrangement and flees the cave for a village.
Dayan chose to discard the next part of Fo's play, in which the tigers and the soldier reconcile and fight off a continuous cycle of invading enemies. He replaced it with a more peaceful ending that further explores misuses of power in society as the soldier becomes the village healer and uses the tigers to keep himself in a position of authority.
Since moving to Boulder, Colo., in 2000, Dayan has become both the director and performer of the one-man show in the United States.
Until March, he had the rights to use the modified ending, but plans to take the play off-Broadway in November attracted Fo's agent, who told him he could only perform the first version of the play when the rights expired this fall. Soon after, Dayan traveled to Fo's house to explain his creative decisions.
"Fo fully understood the reasoning for changing his script. In the Middle East there are two kinds of terrorism coexisting rather than two countries living as neighbors, and he agreed that you had to be sensitive to the political situation," Dayan said.
Because of the political situation in the states, however, Dayan decided to offer Washington audiences a second ending -- Fo's original -- the more violent ending.
"I've always referred to Fo as a personal hero and as an inspiration for everybody who does theater that wants to have relevance in the social and political circumstances," Dayan said.
"I believe it is a time for people to think about who is going to lead them and in what direction," he said. "I really would like to encourage people to take a stand no matter what side they're on."