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There is a Field commemorates Black October

October 24, 2010

On Tuesday, Jen Marlowe’s play There is a Field will be performed around the globe. It marks the tenth anniversary of ‘Black October’ in which twelve Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed in demonstrations by Israeli security forces. The play has been translated into 8 languages.  

Aseel with friends

“I knew Aseel Asleh, the 17 year old young man whose killing is the instigating event of the play,” says Marlowe. “He had been a camper of mine when I worked for Seeds of Peace, which is an Arab-Israeli peace organization. He had been one of the star participants.”


Those who had worked with Aseel, Marlowe says, became very close to his family in Jerusalem after his death. “The play grew out of my desire to do something for Aseel and his family.”

Aseel, Marlowe explains, was shot point blank in the neck by Israeli police at a demonstration outside his village. No eyewitnesses, including the Israeli policemen at the scene, claimed that Aseel had been violent in anyway. He was dead before reaching the hospital. 

“The play developed from a series of interviews with Aseel’s sister, Nardeen, over eight years,” says Marlowe. “And over those years, the play shifted in focus from being about Aseel to really being about Nardeen and her process in grappling with her brother’s killing and her struggles with being a Palestinian inside Israel.” 

Aseel remains a very present character, she notes, through his own emails with Nardeen and others. “Some of these deal with forgiveness and mortality and things that turn out to be very prescient, given how Aseel was killed.” 

It also weaves in “transcripts from the Israeli government’s inquiry into the October killings.” 

Jen Marlowe with a colleague, Sami al Jundi

Marlowe met Aseel in the summer of 1999. As for the emails she included in the play, Marlowe explains she edited them, in part, for tense. “If, for example, Nardeen was speaking to me and describing something in the past tense, I might have made it present tense for dramatic reasons. And sometimes I changed who was being addressed. If Nardeen told me ‘I told Aseel this…’ it might say ‘I told you this…’ in the play. I selected the emails and edited them and tried to build them in a dramatic arc, but every word in the play is actually something someone actually said or wrote.”

Her decision to write this play, Marlowe explains, began with a desire to do something for Aseel and his family. “But above and beyond that, I’ve been using writing and documentary filmmaking for the past six years to expose injustices I see going on in the world, with the hope and belief that, by exposing them artfully, I challenge audiences in fundamental ways to look at our role in our world and figure out how they want to change things.” 

Marlowe views her life course not in terms of emanating from a particular moment, “but more like a spectrum. I started my professional life doing children’s theatre in Seattle. And I was really drawn to working with kids and helping them to use theatre to tell their stories and find their voices. My focused shifted more internationally in 1997 when I got a fellowship as a Jewish American to live in Jerusalem for a year.” 

That was Marlowe’s first time confronting “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. There was a lot that opened my eyes – more than what I had seen on CNN. When I came back from that year I began thinking how I wanted to engage on global issues. 

“When Aseel was murdered, it was a realization of how personal injustice is and how these big political these issues have very personal, devastating impacts on human lives. And I happened to know one of them. Every person who is killed or suppressed by injustice has to be responded to.”

There is a Field will be performed locally on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village, at 8pm, organized and produced by Annika Marks.


Jen Marlowe is a Seattle-based author/documentary filmmaker/playwright and human rights activist. Jen began her professional life using theatre as a platform for students in Seattle to tell their stories.  She lived in Jerusalem from 2000-2004, using some of these same techniques to engage in dialogue-based conflict resolution with Palestinian and Israeli teenagers. Jen also did conflict resolution work with youth in Afghanistan, Cyprus, India, Pakistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 2004, with colleagues Adam Shapiro and Aisha Bain, Jen traveled to Northern Darfur and Eastern Chad to make the award-winning documentary film Darfur Diaries: Message from Home and wrote the accompanying book Darfur Diaries: Stories of Survival.  Jen’s second feature-length documentary is called Rebuilding HopeRebuilding Hope follows three Sudanese-American young men on their first homecoming trip back to Sudan, to discover whether their homes and families survived the civil war and to build a school, drill wells and bring medical supplies to their villages in Sudan. Jen’s second book, called The Hour of Sunlight, is being released by Nation Books in January, 2011. The Hour of Sunlight is the life story of Sami Al Jundi, a Palestinian man from the Old City of Jerusalem. Jen’s new play, called There is a Field, will launch in October.  Jen serves on the board of directors of Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, which is located in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank, Palestine. Jen recently began work on her next book, written with Martina Correia, who is the sister of Troy Davis, a prisoner on death row in Georgia since 1991, despite strong evidence of innocence. She is also working on two short films about Gaza and one about a homeless community in Seattle. Jen’s articles can be found online at The Nation,, and

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