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I’M SORRY, I DON’T UNDERSTANDING: A Play by Olena Boryshpolets & Anouar Rahmani

March 25 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The world premiere of a joint work by two of COA’s writers-in-residence

Olena Boryshpolets and Anouar Rahmani, from Ukraine and Algeria respectively, met as fellow writers-in-residence at City of Asylum and soon joined together to write, produce, and act in their original play, Sorry, I Don’t Understanding. The play, performed in Navajo, Ukrainian, Algerian, Arabic, French, and English, tells the story of a Ukrainian woman and an Algerian man who arrive in Pittsburgh and accidentally become neighbors. She has fled her family and country because of Russia’s war against the free people of Ukraine, he has fled Algeria because of the government’s persecution for supporting LGBT rights. They pass each other on their street and quickly hide in their apartments, where they live their pain in solitude. One day they realize that in order to move on, it is vital for them to tell each other their stories.

If the characters sound familiar, it’s because they are. The idea for the play came about as our writers became neighbors, and then friends. “One day we got tired of walking past each other in silence and started talking,” said Olena. “It was difficult, because at that time I hardly spoke English and was in a critical state of adaptation, when communication with people is difficult. But it is communication with the world and others that a person needs at such moments. I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand’ many, many times in America, and what I felt inside grew into the idea of the play.”

“On a cloudy day, amidst a dispute over trash cans, I found myself strolling with Olena.” Anouar explained. “As we walked, she confided in me her aspirations of pursuing a career as an actress in the theatre. However, one obstacle stood in her way – the English language. In that moment, an idea sparked within me, and I suggested the core concept for a play that could showcase her talents and mine. Together, we embarked on a collaborative journey, intertwining our unique perspectives and skills. With my touch and her touch, we meticulously crafted the scenes of this play, ensuring that each moment carried equal credit for both of us. A little Algerian and a little Ukrainian in a balanced way. Our shared creation aims to convey the experiences of immigrants in the USA, using a surreal and allegorical approach. It is our collective endeavor to deliver a profound message through the art of theater.”

The play will also feature the participation of Frazé-Frazénko & The Happy Lovers band.

About the Artists:

Anouar Rahmani is a writer and human rights defender from Algeria. He is the author of four novels in Arabic, including Hallucinations of Jibril and What God is Hiding from Us. Through his creative writing, journalism, and activism, Anouar advocates for individual freedoms, environmental rights, and the rights of minorities, women, and the LGBT+ community. In 2015, he was the first person to publicly demand same-sex marriage be legalized in Algeria. Anouar holds a License in Public Law and a Master’s in State and Institutional Law from the University of Morsli Abdallah. During the 2019 Algerian Revolution, he composed a new model for the Algerian constitution. Anouar has received support from PEN International during instances of judicial harassment he faced in Algeria due to his activism, novels, and journalism. In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards and selected by the German Bundestag’s Protection Program “Parliamentarians for Parliamentarians.” Anouar is an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Modern Languages and writer-in-residence at City of Asylum since 2022.

Olena Boryshpolets is from Odesa, Ukraine. It is said that you can leave Odesa, but Odesa will never leave you. As such, Olena has carried Odesa with her upon her arrival in Pittsburgh and is ready to share the incredible city with us all. She is a poet, writer, journalist, actress, culture manager, and laureate of the Konstantin Paustovsky Municipal Literary Prize for the collection of poems “Blue Star.” Olena is also a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and a co-founder of the public organization Creation Without Borders. After the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine in February 2022, Olena went to Poland and banded together with other Ukrainian women to tell the European audience about the war and its consequences through the Polish-Ukrainian play “Life in the Event of War.” She has been a Research Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh and writer in residence as part of City of Asylum’s Fellowship for Ukrainian Writers since March 2023.

About Your Visit:

Doors open at 7pm. The play will begin at 7:30pm.

The in-house restaurant 40 North is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but a cash wine bar will be available.

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Alphabet City
40 W North Avenue
Pittsburgh,PA15212United States
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City of Asylum
(412) 435-1110
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