The Band’s Visit

The Band’s Visit


I find it helpful to ask clients in the early stage of therapy to pay attention to where they notice the experience of being in therapy coming up when they are not in my office. The most common response I hear sounds something like this:

“It’s hard to describe a concrete difference, but in the day to day I feel more aware. I’m noticing more in the small moments.”

These small, quiet moments of relational intimacy are where most of life’s experience unfolds. We may cherish and remember loud, ceremonial or dramatic events and reference them often. But most of us spend much more time moving through the spaces in between, relating with others and experiencing passing but often meaningful connections.

David Cromer’s Broadway musical, The Band’s Visit, won ten Tony Awards including Best Musical. With songs by David Yazbek and a script by Itmar Moses, the play is an adaptation of Eran Kolirin’s screenplay for the 2007 movie of the same name. The unexpected circumstances that throw a group of Egyptians together with a group of Israelis forms a celebration of the human connection. The visit is short, but individual, understated intimacies enrich each life and transcend cultural and political biases.

The plot is set in 1996 when members of the Egyptian Alexandria Ceremonial Band are invited to perform at the Arab Cultural Center in Petah Tikva. A subtle (but understandable) miscommunication at the ticket office leads the band to accidentally travel to the sleepy town of Bet Hatikva. The band stumbles upon a quiet café with little money and lost direction, and various clientele and staff reluctantly offer to take band members to their respective homes for the evening. (There is no train to Petah Tikva until the next morning.)

The stage continually rotates between households as simultaneous intimacies are born. With each story, heartache underlies the surface and hosts and houseguests surprise each other with their candor and kindness. Viewers may long for these new bonds to continue, but life realities and circumstances demonstrate how relationship lessons can be lasting even if relationships have to end. An outside perspective sometimes helps us see ourselves and our primary relationships in new ways. The band’s visit turns out to be therapeutic in a manner that mirrors certain dimensions of the therapy process. From a theoretical perspective, if you can experience something new and adaptive in one – albeit unexpected – setting, you can carry this experience over into other areas and other relationships.

Elisabeth LaMotte

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