Controversial play will examine Muslim heritage, stereotypes in the aftermath of Sept. 11

Jack Gerhard and Mary Foster rehearse for Rider’s production of Disgraced. The play will explore how one Muslim man lives in New York City in a post-9/11 world. It will run in the Yvonne Theater from Nov. 15 to Nov. 19.

By Jason Mount

The life of a Muslim man in a post-9/11 world will be examined on the Yvonne Theater stage with Disgraced, running from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20.

Disgraced follows the events of Amir Kapoor, played by junior musical theater major Quentin Araujo, as he tries to live a normal life as an Islamic-raised man in New York City.

“He reformed from his Muslim heritage and belief system,” Araujo said. “It’s very in his bones, it’s very tribal. But he likes to reject it now because he’s a self-made man. He’s a corporate lawyer. He’s living the American Dream.”

Miriam Mills, theater professor and the play’s director, said that she wanted to do the show now because of “how important it is thematically.”

“We assume everybody has the same point of view on events, including 9/11. We hear what we want to hear,” she said. “It’s an easy play to listen to, a hard play to really take in the difficult questions that are asked.”

Mills also shared that the play takes a “Muslim point of view” on 9/11, showing how a person with Islamic heritage survived in New York City after the terrorist attacks sparked prejudice, stereotyping and racial profiling.

Araujo noted that while the play is controversial, addressing the unease in people is important.

While discussing his character, Araujo said that the main challenge was “getting into the mindset.”

“The hardest part was to do a lot of research. Reading the Quran was definitely hard because it’s a long book,” he explained. “I watched plenty of documentaries about the war in Iraq, and I’ve done a lot of research on the American mission in the Middle East — what we wanted to do in the Middle East and what was the actual product of it and how we created our own hostility there. I enjoyed understanding that.”

Mills agreed that understanding Kapoor’s point of view was important and that the whole cast had to “have a Muslim sensibility.” Mills also explained that the actors were challenged to “find the rage” behind the characters while not playing into stereotypes.

Mills said that she was never bored during Disgraced rehearsals.

“It’s too smart. Sometimes you can direct a show and after a few weeks you think, ‘Oh god, I can’t wait for this to be over.’ I never felt that way. I was never bored with this show. There was never a rehearsal that I didn’t find compelling,” Mills said.

Mills also explained that “it’s a play to bring your brain and bring your heart to” with the compelling text and performance.

According to Araujo, “table work” was among one of the highlights during the rehearsal process.

He explained that the discoveries about the characters and the decisions made at the table readings helped the cast get a better hold of the show. He also mentioned one of his favorite parts of doing the play is “physically being” his character when he wears the costumes and performs on the stage.

Both Mills and Araujo said people should see Disgraced because of how timely the production is and how it deals with topics such as racism. They also mentioned that audiences should be allured by the “for mature audiences only” description of the production.

Araujo hopes audiences will look at how strongly held roots and belief systems can impact a person, and if those beliefs make up one’s identity.

Mills wants audiences to feel just two things: enriched and entertained.

Disgraced will run from Nov. 15 to Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Yvonne Theater. Tickets can be purchased through the online box office: http://bit.ly/2gsIKCI. 

 

Printed in the 11/15/17 edition. 

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