When Aaron Davidman, playwright and actor in the solo performance Wrestling Jerusalem, started writing his play, he thought he was making a piece about Israel and Palestine, but he “ended up with a project that’s bigger than that.” Davidman says. “My piece tries to demolish polarization.”

Wrestling Jerusalem tells the story of one American’s journey to thoroughly understand Israel and Palestine over many years, in many locations and by encountering many people. Throughout the dynamic 90-minute performance, Davidman gives voice to 17 characters including men, women, Jews, Muslims, Israelis, Arabs and Americans ranging the socioeconomic, religious and political spectrums. That the play is performed entirely by one actor is no coincidence. As Davidman explains, Wrestling Jerusalem is “an exercise in expanding the boundaries of one’s self to contain others. That’s really the big metaphor of the piece.”

Because Davidman wanted to “go beyond the headlines,” the process of writing the play took seven years of interviews and then sculpting the characters — some of them composites, some entirely fictional. If a particular voice was missing, Davidman went in search of that person or did extensive research in order to be able to write a three-dimensional identity. No matter which character, the goal was to humanize the various perspectives. For that reason, he chose not to include any extremist characters, sensing those voices would take over the show.

In the four years Davidman has been performing Wrestling Jerusalem the world has continued to change, imbuing the play’s complexity with even more importance. For Davidman, the performance tries to embody “a non-binary existence that is truer to the way life actually works, and which is actually close to a lot of Jewish teachings.” When people enter the theater, “Everyone comes in with their own predisposed ideas,” Davidman says, but he’s “hoping for openness, for a willingness to go along on the journey.” He simply asks that, together, we practice the “wonderful art of listening.”

Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), Wrestling Jerusalem will appear at The Philadelphia Theatre Company October 18 – November 5, 2017.

Join the JCRC on November 1st for Interfaith Night at the Theatre with a post-performance panel discussion, and on November 2nd for Jewish Community Night, which will include a conversation with the actor/playwright following the show. Tickets for these two evenings are available at a 25% discount online with the promo code jewishphilly, or mention the Jewish Federation when purchasing tickets at the box office or at 215.985.0420.

For additional information, contact Abbey Frank at afrank@jewishphilly.org or 215.832.0553.