REFUGE MALJA ملجأ (2018)

When a Jewish-American war photographer feels compelled to assist a young refugee who steps in front of her camera,  she calls an old friend to translate but hesitates to reveal why she is so drawn to the boy. This poetic, decade-spanning drama explores how we each define and find our own malja (refuge). Affiliate Artist Bess Welden’s Refuge * Malja * ملجأ was developed at the 2017 Little Festival of the Unexpected. 


Kareem Fahmy is a Canadian-born director and playwright of Egyptian descent. He is a 2017-2018 National Directors Fellow with The O’Neill Theater Center and the National New Play Network. He has directed and co-conceived a number of world premiere productions including James Scruggs’s 3/Fifths (3LD, New York Times Top 5 Must-See Shows), Sevan K. Greene’s This Time (Sheen Center, New York Times Critics’ Pick), and Victor Lesniewski’s Couriers and Contrabands (TBG Theatre). Other: Adam Kraar’s Alternating Currents (world premiere, Working Theater), Rohina Malik’s The Mecca Tales (NY premiere, Voyage Theater Company), Nikkole Salter’s Indian Head (world premiere, Luna Stage). Kareem’s work as a playwright has been developed and produced at Noor Theatre, Rising Circle Theater Collective, The Lark, Fault Line Theatre, and The Atlantic Theater Company. He is currently adapting the seminal Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building for the stage.  Kareem has developed plays with New York Theatre Workshop (where he is a Usual Suspect), MCC, Second Stage, Soho Rep, New Dramatists, The Lark, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Sundance, The Civilians, Noor Theatre, Silk Road Rising, and Berkeley Rep. He is a founder of Maia Directors, a consulting group for organizations and artists engaging with Middle Eastern stories. MFA: Columbia University.

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by Bess Welden,

Bess Welden (Playwright) has been making theater as a writer, performer, and educator for nearly 25 years, and in her adopted home state of Maine since 2001. Refuge * Malja * ملجأ marks her playwriting debut on Portland Stage’s mainstage after developing the script in the 2017 Little Festival of the Unexpected and a week-long residency at Hewnoaks Artist Colony. Her one-act play Madelines(2015) premiered in PS’s Studio Series, and her two solo comedies Big Mouth Thunder Thighs (2013) and The Passion of the Hausfrau (2009) were also workshopped through Little Festival and premiered in the Studio Theater. In 2017, her original multi-disciplinary performance project, Legbala is a River, premiered at Mayo Street Arts, and her play Death Wings received at staged reading with Real Live Theatre in Northampton, MA and was workshopped with professional and student actors at Colby College. In addition, she helped develop the script for and directed Not Always Happy, written and performed by Portland blogger/memoirist/social justice storyteller Kari Wagner-Peck. Her children’s theater piece, Magic in the Attic, premiered at Theater LJCC in Birmingham, AL (2015) and her latest script for young actors/audiences, Mergirl Saves the Waves, will be workshopped in July 2018 through PS’s Theater for Kids summer program. Bess is the librettist of two musical works, A Little Miracle (Lincoln Center premiere) and Eagle Girl, composed by David Stock, and has co-written and performed four other solo plays. As a performer (MFA, National Theater Conservatory) she has appeared with the Denver Center Theater Company, Williamstown Theater Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Hangar Theater, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Portland Stage, Dramatic Repertory Company, the Opera House at Boothbay, Mad Horse Theatre, Portland Symphony Orchestra, Southwest Michigan Symphony, White Plains Performing Arts Center, Commonweal Theater, among many others. Bess is a Teaching Artist in Colby College’s Department of Theater and Dance where she has directed mainstage productions of Tartuffe and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as facilitated/directed the Activist Storytelling Workshop/The Passion Project. She is a long-time and proud PS Affiliate Artist and Teaching Artist.

Ali Al-Mshakheel

Ali Al-Mshakheel (Translator) worked in media relations and outreach for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq before he and his family left Baghdad, Iraq in 2014. He had previously been a producer for ABC News reporting on events throughout Iraq; editor of news and feature stories for Aswat Al-Iraq web-based News agency; and reporter and interpreter for The Times of London and Asahi Shimbun. Ali has recently cofounded the Maine Language Connect, an agency providing Language interpretation, translation and cultural training to various sectors, including education, judicial and medical sectors.