About two years ago, playwrights Roy Barber and Peter Frisch went to the West Bank to observe how Palestinian children were being affected by the intifada.
"The first day we were there, we went to a refugee camp called Jalazone," recalls Barber. "A 14-year-old Palestinian boy had been killed the day before we arrived" by an Israeli soldier. The two writers took this event as the focal point for a play about the uprising and the devastating toll it has taken on Palestinian and Israeli families. They spent the rest of their time in the region interviewing the boy's family, teachers and friends. They also found out more about the soldier who killed him. And from 60 hours of interviews, Barber created "Children With Stones."
"What I have done is tried to parallel an Israeli family and a Palestinian family," he says. "I look at the two families in the week leading up to the death of a child. I look at how the intifada is affecting the two communities. How it is uniting the Palestinian community and dividing and splitting the Israeli community."
This is pretty heavy material, even for the theater. So Barber, known locally for his most recent production, "A Dance Against Darkness: Living With AIDS," decided to set the play to music. "I think it makes a complicated issue more accessible," he says.
For the score he combined traditional Arab and Jewish folk music with the contemporary Western sensibilities of Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim. He also offers the ironies of the occupation -- as in the song "Dangerous Cookies," about the women of Gaza who start a cookie factory to become more self-sufficient because most of the men have been arrested.
"It gives a new meaning to 'aggressive' bake sale," he laughs.
But more than anything else, Barber tries to show the importance of never giving up personal beliefs, even in the most dire situations. Like that of the Palestinian transvestite painter.
"His parents lock him in a room every day because his essence is so different," says Barber. "He would be in exile anywhere. But he uses his creativity and his imagination to triumph over his situation."
"Children With Stones" will be performed today through Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Source Theatre. Following each performance will be a panel discussion, featuring experts from both sides of the issue. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. For information, call 462-1073.