‘Picking Up Stones’

Rhode Island playwright wants to inspire dialogue with new show


If a conversation ever gets dull, just bring up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tempers will flare. Grand statements will be made. Friendships will shatter. Participants don’t have to be Jewish, or Arab, or even know anything about Israel. The very mention of this 75-year stalemate will cause immediate emotional fallout, and some relationships may never recover.

But Sandra Laub, 66, does want to bring it up. “Picking Up Stones: An American Jew’s Moral Dilemma” is her one-woman show about the complex political tapestry that Israel has become. The world premiere of “Stones” is set for April 23, at The Dragon’s Egg, in Ledyard, Connecticut.

Many sections of Laub’s new show are borrowed from “Via Dolorosa,” a nonfiction play by British dramatist David Hare. But she mixes these with her own stories – of family, creative expression and an eye-opening visit to Israel.

“I don’t have any answers,” Laub said in a recent interview. “I’m just asking the questions and putting my body and my mouth where my ideas are. I’ve had a lot of help, but in the end, it’s just me on that stage. I don’t know what will happen. I really don’t.”

Laub lives in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, and is an English and drama teacher in Rhode Island’s Chariho Regional School District. She studied acting at the A.C.T. Conservatory, in California, and has been a performer and director her entire adult life.

In 2013, Laub performed “Golda’s Balcony,” William Gibson’s stirring solo show about former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, for the now-defunct 2nd Story Theatre in Warren.

The next year, Laub traveled to Israel to further research the role. Her visit occurred during Operation Protective Edge, a six-week war in Gaza that resulted in more than 500 casualties. This brush with history, along with Israel’s more recent political turmoil, inspired Laub to write her play.

To tell the story, Laub takes on numerous roles, from Israeli politician Benny Begin to members of Laub’s own family, representing a range of perspectives. A talk-back session will follow the performance, inviting audience members to share their thoughts.

Laub hopes to take the show to other institutions, such as schools and Hillels, to inspire further dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I don’t aspire to fame or acclaim on a scale that, say, Lisa Kron has achieved,” says Laub, referencing the acclaimed Jewish monologuist. “[But] I truly believe that theater is a powerful tool. In a non-intimidating way, theater brings people together to think and feel about a subject like this – contentious and divisive though it may be among the Jewish community – which I care about deeply.”

“I want people to feel a sort of energizing exhaustion,” she adds. “I hope it’s something that lets people know that, in their life, they have stories to tell, too.”

ROBERT ISENBERG (risenberg@jewishallianceri.org) is the multimedia producer for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and a writer for Jewish Rhode Island.

Sandra Laub, Picking up Stones, drama, conflict