REFUGE MALJA ملجأ by Bess Welden with Arabic translation by Ali Al Mshakeel


Fiercely independent Jewish-American photojournalist Jamie Winter meets refugee kids all the time, but when Waleed, a shoeless teenager steps off the boat and in front of her lens, she is suddenly forced to confront her own cultural identity, family history, a complicated past relationship, and the undeniable compulsion to become the boy’s rescuer. Written in English and Arabic, the play explores the idea of motherhood, what it means to truly communicate across cultures and inside our own families, and how each of us defines and finds a home.

PRODUCTION IMAGES – Aaron Flacke for Portland Stage



JAMIE WINTER – Jewish-American photojournalist with an established international career, a woman, early 40s. She is strongly independent and almost always unapologetic.

IBRAHIM MALOUF – Palestinian citizen of Israel radio journalist, a man, 40s. He is a poet. (Arab/Middle Eastern, verbal Arabic skills required)

THE MOTHER – Jamie’s mother/Ibrahim’s mother/Waleed’s mother/Aid Worker, 60s-early 70s (believable as both JAMIE’s mom who is of Eastern European descent, and as IBRAHIM’s mother and WALEED’s mother who are of Middle Eastern descent)

WALEED – a refugee boy, 11-13. He should look young and vulnerable, on the cusp of adolescence but at moments still very much a child. (Arab/Middle Eastern, verbal Arabic skills required)

WOLF – the non-speaking spirit/ghost of Jamie’s grandfather. Embodied at various moments by all actors.




World premiere: Portland Stage Company (Portland, Maine) Oct/Nov 2018

Finalist, 2020 National Jewish Playwriting Contest – video excerpt produced by the Jewish Plays Project,

Spring 2020 Workshop Reading: Little Festival of the Unexpected at Portland Stage, May 2018

Developed at Hewnoaks Artist Colony, Summer 2017

The play won the 2020 Tel Aviv Jewish Plays Contest and was also a top-seven finalist for the 2020 National Jewish Playwriting Contest in the US



The Portland Phoenix review: November 2018


Portland Press Herald review: November 2018


Portland Stage Production Trailer


 Everything you want in a work of art for the stage: theatrical, poetic, moving, and original.  Donna Hoke, playwright
  Intense and compelling play about a Jewish American woman torn between her family and her desire to rescue a young boy who is a refugee. I love the connections she makes between today’s refugees, those from the Nakba, and those who died in the Holocaust. Welden’s sharply beautiful language resists sentiment while the doubling of the mother characters allows us to recognize ourselves in others without having to use any words at all. Emma Goldman-Sherman, playwright



Approximately 75 minutes



Preview available here

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