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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Woodbridge teen and friends to stage benefit for Darfur







Cast members, l to r, Tyler Williams, Leah McLoughlin, Diego Barnes, Sivan Battat, Marina Sachs, Rachel Ewald and Jordyn DiNatale

Original play and local band to be among highlights

By Eliza Hallabeck
Special to the Register
WOODBRIDGE
— When the crisis in Darfur began in 2003, Sivan Battat was 8 years old. Now 14, she is busy putting together a benefit to raise money and awareness for that troubled region.
The benefit, which will include a theatrical production, music, food and more, will run 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Woodbridge Town Center. Sivan said she expects 100 to 200 people to turn out. All proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders.
Sivan said she wanted to organize the benefit because learning about the situation in Darfur area of Sudan “was an immediate shock. We let the Holocaust happen, we let genocide happen, and now we are letting this happen.”
She said she learned about the horrors in Darfur over a period of time, but when she was watching a friend’s PowerPoint presentation, the facts hit home.
She had already written a play, and, she said, the benefit fell together on its own.
A typical school day for Sivan begins early and doesn’t end until 5 p.m. She attends Amity Regional High School until a little after noon, then takes a bus to New Haven to attend school with other gifted art students at ACES Education Center for the Arts.
Six of her fellow ECA members will perform in her play, “Forever Running,” for the benefit Sunday. Battat said the play takes place in the afterlife. A mother and daughter, who have just been killed, meet people and discuss their experiences in life.
The Morning Paper, a local area band, also will perform. There will be food and beverages, and Sivan said Villa Pizza of Shelton will donate 15 pizzas for the night. There will be volunteers running booths.
She has been acting since she was much younger, Sivan said, and combining her acting with writing skills came naturally.
One of her friends who has been particularly helpful, Sivan said, is Sarah Bass, who attends Wilbur Cross High school in New Haven and ECA.
Bass said she has been calling places to raise money and other small tasks. “It really just came from a dream,” Bass said about Sivan’s concept for the benefit, “and it really just went far beyond that.”
In 2003, according to the Save Darfur organization, the Sudanese government responded to ethnic civilian rebellions with a campaign of destruction, including wiping out of whole villages, murder, torture and rape. In 2007, President Bush determined that the situation was genocide, the first time in U.S. history genocide has been so named while it is still taking place. Sivan is a “very bright, committed and delightful young woman,” said Lauri Lowell, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New Haven.
Lowell has been working on the issue of Darfur for about three years, she said, and in March Sivan’s mother, Stacy Battat, who works with Lowell, asked her if she would add some advice on the project her daughter was working on.
Lowell said Battat walked in with a two-page memo of the things she wanted done in preparation for the benefit. Lowell said she was impressed.
Sivan said that someday when her children ask her about Darfur, she wants to be able to tell them that someone tried to stop it.
“We look back on the generation in the 1930s, and we wonder why people didn’t help,” she said. “Well, now I can say someone did do something.”
For information, email: bethechange.Darfur@gmail.com
Event sponsors are: Kiwi Publishing, Schmitt Sussman Enterprises (PFP), Traveland, Villa Pizza, Neubert, Pepe and Monteith, P.C., Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven,Opel Inc., Milford Pediatric Group, Standard Oil,Ezra Academy and Graphic Image
Eliza Hallabeck is a New Haven Register intern.

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