To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda, the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will present a staged reading of actor-writer Jay O. Sanders’ play “Unexplored Interior” on May 11.
It promises to be a striking event in several ways, not least as a creative and technological partnership between the theater world, the museum, and Google + Hangout On Air (a live video conference call) that will make it possible for an audience in Rwanda to watch the play on a giant screen at their newly constructed amphitheater at Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. They will be viewing the New York-based production as it is performed in real time.
Following the two-and-a-half-hour performance featuring 15 actors, the audiences at each location will have a face-to-face discussion about the play, while other global viewers, who can also view the performance — and the audience response in Rwanda — live-streamed on their computers, will also be able to participate in the conversation, using Hangout On Air’s Q & A app. The live audience in New York, including invited guests who have studied, witnessed, and survived genocidal attacks, will participate in the post performance question and answer session.
It’s been a long journey for “Unexplored Interior,” and especially for Sander, who has been working on the play for close to a decade. The son of Quaker social activists, Sander describes a confluence of events that led to his involvement with the crisis in Rwanda, not least seeing the horrifying events unfolding on television in 1994, no one fully explaining it and, worse, nobody responding to it in any meaningful way. “The newscasters kept saying it was complex and tribal and completely beyond our understanding,” he recalls. “And I just didn’t buy it.”