No justice, no peace

It doesn’t take much prodding to get Amy Mueller worked up about the Middle East. A simple “Your thoughts?” will do.

“I don’t condone my Israel, my fellow Jews, killing innocent everyday moms and dads just trying to live,” she says. “It’s against our religion. We have a gift: We are a people with laws, and we need to live up to that.”

Clearly, the Bay Area native is outspoken, passionate and intense, all useful qualities when it comes to her work as a director for the stage.

It also helps that Mueller has aligned herself with Golden Thread Productions. The San Francisco-based theater company specializes in plays about the Middle East. And if Golden Thread seems to take a decidedly left-leaning stance, it’s no mirage.

For proof, the company presents its fifth annual ReOrient, a festival of eight short plays exploring the Middle East. Starting Oct. 31, topics include everything from Palestinian life in the territories to the comic musings of two American airport security guards. Mueller will be directing “Coming Home,” by noted Israeli playwright Motti Lerner. She and Lerner met in San Francisco last year when a play of his was in production at A.C.T. “I was really taken with him,” she says. “He believes theater has a place in the social fabric, not just as entertainment but also as a way of taking the national temperature and illuminating the condition of a people.”

“Coming Home” is a short, one-act play that, according to Mueller, “evokes the entire spectrum of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the way the conflict has evolved and how it affects the national psyche.” The story revolves around Yoni, a young Israeli soldier, home on leave after having killed an innocent Palestinian boy, and having seen his best friend blown up by a suicide bomber.

Another work, making its world premiere, is “Security,” by American writer Israel Horovitz. Director Hal Gelb, who also serves as Golden Thread’s casting director, is excited about the play. “It’s a very funny one-act that begins as a dialogue between two Customs officers,” he says. “One is black, the other white. In 10 minutes they talk about Jews, Italians, Catholics, blacks and whites. Then in comes an Iranian woman and her son.”

Gelb, like Mueller, is Jewish, and similarly believes he’s making a worthy contribution by aligning with Golden Thread. “A lot of our material has to do with questions of identity,” he notes. “We have a strong desire to tell stories from the point of view of people who don’t often get their perspective out: Palestinians, Iraqis, Armenians.”

Mueller agreed wholeheartedly. Mueller lived in Israel for a time, and has a strong love for the Jewish state. But, she contends, “in order to create peace between people, you have to make an attempt to understand the other point of view. It is my desire and duty as a Jew to join with others who seek peace, to foster understanding and compassion. I don’t believe that by hearing the Palestinian perspective you are necessarily anti-Israel.”

“ReOrient 2003” runs from Oct. 31 through Nov. 23, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m., at New Langdon Arts, 1246 Folsom St., San Francisco. Tickets: $12-18. Info: (510) 986-9194 or

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.