Arts Desk

Fearful Passage: Theater Alliance Reads The Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo

The star-crossed lovers lay entwined and unrecoverable in Sniper Alley for days following their death. Mark H. Milstein took his photograph of the bodies of Admira Ismic, a Muslim Bosnian, and Bosko Brkic, a Catholic Serb, on May 19, 1993, after the two were killed while attempting to escape Sarajevo. Because of the dissemination of Milstein's photograph and a famous Reuters dispatch by the late war correspondent Kurt Schork, Ismic and Brkic became international symbols of the suffering endured by every side of the Bosnian War. Brian Silberman, the author of the new play The Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo, has looked to their life and death for inspiration.

Tonight, Theater Alliance stages a reading of The Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo as part of the Hothouse on H Street Reading Series. The play debuted in April 2010, at Franklin and Marshall College, where Silberman is an associate professor of theater, but hasn't been produced yet by a professional company.

Six months into his tenure as artistic director of Theater Alliance, Colin Hovde says he hopes to hone Hothouse's focus. Hovde says the series emerged as an effort by Theater Alliance's board of directors to keep the company energized during a transition of artistic leadership. Now, as the troupe returns to a full production schedule, Hothouse will become a more focused way to "get to know playwrights and the plays," Hovde says, and "to hear the works on their feet and get a sense of the challenges we might face in mounting a full production." He chose The Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo both for the relevance of the questions raised by Ismic and Brkic's deaths, as well as Silberman's presentation of those issues. Silberman "pushes the field forward in terms of storytelling," Hovde says, "so you're not just watching a depressing story about two people who get killed."

A talk- back and a presentation of potential design concepts for set and costume will follow the reading. Irma Saje, a costume and fashion designer from Sarajevo, will hopefully join in the evening's discussion. "I'm trying to figure out if I can Skype her in," says Hovde. Silberman will also be in attendance, and Hovde has invited staff members from the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina to attend.

The reading takes place tonight at H Street Playhouse, 1365 H St. NE. 7 p.m. Pay what you can.

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  • Devoe

    A Catholic Serb? I'm not saying it's impossible, but the Orthodox religion is nearly synonymous with Serb ethnicity, at least in the former Yugoslavia.