“Over the course of Ms. Schultz's performance, the Iraqi refugee population of New York City increased virtually by something like 10%, as she brought stories of urban refugee life into the spare rehearsal room...Ms. Schultz transformed herself...”
The New York Times

"Under Sarah Cameron Sunde's perceptive direction, Schultz gains our sympathies for a people who many people automatically suspect are our enemies. That alone is no small achievement."
The Star Ledger

"How can one person summarize so much pain, pride trauma, love and suffering like an Iraqi refugee while she is, in fact, not an Iraqi refugee herself? As a refugee myself, I gave up to the fact, that no one can hold the complexity of the crisis, it's so complicated and different. Yet I was wrong. In this event, I was captured from the first word until the end. It was brilliant."
Ibrahim, Iraqi refugee

Thursday, April 21, 2011

TOUR Diary

Performed at The Kennedy Center last night for World Refugee Day with UNHCR. What an honor. And what a show! We were in the Terrace Theatre---500 seats! And completely sold out. Standing room only! And a standing ovation. People were moved by the stories of these Iraqis. They cried, they told me, even though they didn't want to. These stories and real and heart breaking. We had a lovely post show discussion with Charity Tooze, Director of National Communications for UNHCR, a beautiful reception featuring our introducer and novelist Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner"-- bringing into focus the need to protect ALL refugees,  as it is what we should do as HUMANS. VERY moving. We later were invited to a party with a patron who asked Ami and I to share a part of the show and others to share stories. Such simple wonderful stories were shared about how simple and life-changing it can be to help a refugee or 2. It doesn't have to be a million. What a night. Special thanks to The Kennedy Center and UNHCR for making this all happen and bringing spotlight to the 4.7 million displaced Iraqi people. I am honored to share in the event.

Busy October---4 shows! All different! Guest musician David Kanter joined me for the NY Revolution Books performance, bringing his own unique talents to the performance. Next up was a reunion with Amikaeyla Gaston in Champaign-Urbana. What a joy to fall back into our relationship onstage...so easy. Then David Joined me again in the Bronx for a huge student show at BCC. We wrapped up October with a return visit to South Bend, hosted this time by IUSB. I have decided I need to return to South bend every 6 months whether I need to or not. What a wonderful community so responsive to Iraqis. I had the great honor of being reunited with Iraqi musician Karam Salam. It is such an honor to play alongside an Iraqi while telling these stories. The piano brings such a different element to the show, as does his spirit. I hope we can do more together!

Just back from 4 shows in Minneapolis at the Illusion Theater. How great to bring the stories of Iraqi refugees to audiences in Minnesota, a place thousands of refugees call home. We brought the stories to over 200 audience members and filled out hundreds of advocacy postcards as part of the "Postcards to the President" campaign. Now is the time more than ever, after the incidents in Bowling Green have caused legislators to govern with fear and ignorance, holding up the visa process for thousands of Iraqis who worked for US forces. Now is the time to match that with humanization of Iraqis through personal stories, which is what I hope this play does. Special thanks to Illusion Theater, and Center for Victims of Torture and Iraqi American Reconciliation Project for participating in the talk backs after each show.

NEXT UP! Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, MN July 14-17! Amikaeyla Gaston rejoins me onstage for this week of performances in MN. More coming soon on this tour stop!

Just finished an amazing performance at Holy Cross College in South Bend, IN. I went alone this time---sans musician. But it turns out I wasn't alone. Holy Cross hosts 3 Iraqi students as part of the Iraqi Student Project and those 3 students all participated in the performance. One student Karam, is an amazingly talented musician and after only 2 hours of rehearsal he was able to support the play musically onstage. The other 2 students provided the voices I need late in the play. It was so unique and wonderful to perform this play with Iraqis onstage and participating. I can also imagine it was hard for them, as these harrowing stories are THEIR harrowing stories, as well. I am grateful. Yet another version of the show that can exist to help tell the stories...

I also taught a class on ARTS AS ADVOCACY at Clay Magnet High School in South Bend. These students were incredible. I shared my journey of how I was introduced to using arts to create change in the world and then gave them the opportunity through indivual and group activities to be creative and then brainstorm issues that are important to them. By the end we had a dozen ideas for ways to use various artistic expressions of art to change their school, town and world. So amazing.

The teacher at the school sent this: "I just wanted to thank you again for visiting Clay and inspiring our students to use their art to make a difference.  You have ignited a fire in them and they are anxiously talking of fundraisers they want to sponsor next year. Please believe me when I say that you truly moved these kids. Your show was extraordinary, and I feel we gained so much from you coming here.  First, your inspiring work with the refugees; second, getting the message out about these 'forgotten' yet truly dignified people; and finally, demonstrating the power of art to move people to take action"

Lastly, at the reception at the end of the show, a little Iraqi boy came up to me. He had lost both of his parents in the invasion and ensuing violence. Heartbreakingly he asked me , "Were your tears real or were they fake?" I told him there were real, because these stories made me sad. He looked at me quizzingly not understanding or believing. He has certainly cried enough real tears for a lifetime.

Performed at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC this weekend. In this performance, I had the pleasure of working with a new musician, Intersections' own Fred Johnson. He created and performed all the music and sounds and voices I need in the play to create the life and heart of the play. We had no other tech elements but the two of us. Such a different experience from the NY off-Broadway run. No tech really, just he and I and the stories. Powerful. And simple. The stories speak for themselves.

P.S. performed for Ralph Nader, as well. Wooh.


  1. I am so happy that I got to see your play in New Jersey! And I am glad that you can share it with others and that it is having such a lasting affect.