Friday, June 15, 2007

Response to posted comment for previous entry

About a week ago, a third comment was posted to the entry below. It affected me greatly for many reasons...and i have been debating on how to respond,
IF I chose to respond.

My immediate reaction was confusion and then a slow dawining of... This individual did not get the point of the play.
He/She chose to highlight all the moments in the play that show all the wrongs the characters are doing...
which. Is ...well. Kind of the story. It's a story of discovery. The fact that the father contradicts himself by saying he's a good moslem and then wishing death every day of his life... Yeah. That's the irony.

THAT's the universal connection. We rarely hear from the people in the world making mistakes trying to be good. There are only the loud fanatics that declare themselves perfect, it seems.

But... I have to look deeper than this. It took my sister reminding me of the Qu'ran instruction: should we (muslims) see Islam misrepresented, it is our duty to correct the representation.

Despite how many time I say, "I did not write a muslim play; I just happen to be muslim"; the fact that I took a traditional coming of age story and had it centered around a muslim family leaves a lot of expectation and responsibility.

I just shudder to think what anybody who shares the same opinion/concerns as this individual would've thought had they seen the original play in its one act form. THAT version had NO instruction on Islam. It was just the bare ugly humanity of the lack of growth.

And I am stuck. Wondering. Where to go with the commentary. I don't get commentary like this very often. Rarely, in fact.

I am aware of all the contradictions. They are not there by accident. They are there on purpose. MOST importantly, they are not there to insult. This play is not JUST about being moslem. It is about TRYING to be moslem; about trying to be onesself, at the same time, and what confusion/frustration is born from that... at all ages.

Yes. I understand that in an ideal world God comes first. I understand that in an ideal life, by God coming first and following every rule, all is ok. All will be fine.
I also understand it is not usual for human nature to want to make things easy.

So. Am I wrong as a writer, if I go and correct everything? I'd lose a lot of my story. I'd lose a lot of the connection that....those who were not raised in the Islamic faith...have with this play.

And. As a muslim, am I shaming God? I shaming others of the Islamic faith?
And. If my first answer is to God... then. ....


All I keep thinking is...
Never judge a religion by its followers.

As the play has grown, so have I as a muslim. It is not in the writing because the characters are not in the same place I am. They are in a place I used to be. And life keeps moving. And, God willing, I will keep learning.

However. To the invidual who posted, you are following your responsibility as a member of the Islamic faith. I respect that. And I can only honor your commentary with this post. And I thank you for taking the time to contact me.


Friday, June 01, 2007

West Coast Premiere in the Final Frontier

Spent 3 glorious days in Anchorage, Alaska with Sandy Harper, Artistic Director for Cyranos Theatre along with the cast/crew of The Perfect Prayer's third production (second professional production). ...and, in general, the community of Anchorage.

It was an overwhelmingly wonderful experience.

Hadia- Jamie Pauley
Mother-Vivian Kinnaird
Father-Marius Panzarella
Adam-Anthony Oliva

(from l-r: marius panzarella,vivian kinnaird,erick haydn,anthony oliva,jamie pauley)

Throughout the rehearsal process (and some prior), I was in contact with Erick Haydn (director). I made myself available for any glaring mistakes in structure in the script and to, possibly, answer any dramaturgical needs. Beyond that, I wanted to see how the script was handled and perceived in another director's hands.

At some point during the rehearsal process, Sandy contacted me and said they were having very little luck connecting with the Islamic community in Anchorage. I felt somewhat helpless as I wasn't sure i'd be able to connect either.

This seemed very familiar to me: During the very first production, trying to connect with the Islamic community in my own town proved rather challenging... and that was just for promotional purposes. Cyranos was looking to connect to have someone on hand, to instruct and guide for the Arabic, and movements in prayer...and just, overall...a consultant to say, "That's right. That's wrong." Etc...

Upon my arrival, I was happy to learn that they had indeed found someone in the community...simply through life's magic of serendipty. Or. God's will. However you want to see it.
This was eye-opening for me, to see the connections that were made in the process of getting this play prepared for its run. Friendships were/are growing from the cooperation and desire to maintain integrity of/for the show, the culture, and the accidental goal of this script...universality.

This is the third production i've seen of this script.

The first item up for discussion between Haydn and myself was casting. After he held auditions,he spoke to me about his choices... the one problem I had was Vivian. In the beginning, prior to seeing the show, i had an objection to this.
(It is a pet-peeve of mine that quite often arab characters are cast using african-american actors. PLUS this play takes place in the south and being black in the south has a lot of different weight on it) but Erick reassured me she good... and that it wouldn't be an issue.

He was right.
*sigh* You live, you learn, you...yeah.

Moving on, though..
For the second time in a row, a director has decided to ignore my lack of blackouts for the scene breaks. For those who have seen the show, dialogue of scenes and changes overlap so that lines of conversations from a previous scene seem to connect to the next.
This is a major tool used in the script, constantly. The play should not stop except for intermission and the end. Erick chose which scenes he wanted to utilize the overlap for and simply did blackouts bewteen scene changes for the rest. GRANTED, sound design was excellent and the music playing during the scene changes was pretty good. But. I felt the rhythm for the show was definitely interrupted...
The hard thing to figure out here is how do these breaks affect the story. Or. Do they affect the story.

The talkbacks were excellent. 3 talkbacks. 2 full-houses that stayed. The last night was also packed but people dripped out during the talkback.
Great questions all the way around and a lot of appreciation for the opportunity to learn and be entertained.
Edu-tainment lives on.

Two great reviews here and here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

West Coast Premiere

Cyrano Theatre, in Anchorage, Alaska, presents the West Coast Premiere of THE PERFECT PRAYER.

First review is already out online.

Leaving to see the production this Wednesday. Will be participating in talkbacks after each show this week.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poster for AHANA production in ATLANTA

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Opening Night comes again...

A second production of The Perfect Prayer opens this Friday, March 23, for a short run on the Emory University Campus. Info below:

The Perfect Prayer
AHANA Theater Spring Production

March 23, 24, 29, 31 at 8 pm;
March 30 at 7 pm;
March 24 at 2 pm

Price: $6 general/ $4 Emory students
Ticket Availability: Box Office opens on March 19, 2007
Venue: Burlington Road Building Blackbox Theater

Director: Tye Tavaras
Playwright: Suehyla El-Attar
Contact:Christie Pettitt-Schieber: (404) 558-1878
Suehyla El-Attar's play captures the essence of what it means to be a Muslim American college student raised in the American South with her play about religion, family, love, heritage, and finding one's place in the world.

Although some changes have been made to the script, I had NO hand nor involvement in rehearsals.
This was me taking the training wheels off...and seeing how she (my play) balanced on her own.

If she can balance, that is...

We'll see.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two upcoming productions of The Perfect Prayer

AHANA Theater group at Emory University will present the next production of The Perfect Prayer. Dates for the 6 performances are: March 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31. Tickets are just $4 for students and $6 for general audience.

This will be a revised script since the world premiere and an interesting experience for me as I will only be able to see if these changes work...and not rewriting at all before the performances.

After this, will be the May/June production at (directed by Erick Hayden) at Cyrano Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska. After the AHANA production, i'll be able to see what cuts/adds I should make, might make...etc. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oct. 24 program designed to foster discussion of world’s major religions

GAINESVILLE, GA – Atlanta actress/playwright Suehyla El-Attar will present “The Perfect Prayer: An Inter-religious Dialogue,” at Brenau University’s Thurmond-McRae Lecture Hall on Oct. 24 starting at 7:30 p.m.

The reading, which includes Robin Hale, Ann Wilson and Sean Keene, will be followed by a question-and-answer session with believers of some of the world’s major religions.

“Our objective (with this event) is to promote cultural sensitivity and discuss the commonalities among different faiths,” said Dovile Budryte, associate professor of international studies at Brenau. “Tolerance is impossible without understanding.”

The presentation is based on El-Attar’s first play, “The Perfect Prayer,” an account of a young Islamic woman’s struggle to balance the teachings of her religion against the temptations of the modern world.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution theater critic Wendell Brock describes the play, which debuted at Atlanta’s Horizon Theatre this summer, as “a wise and affecting cross-cultural dance with universal appeal” that “does more to dispel ignorance about Islam than any piece of theater in recent memory.”

El-Attar, who Brock calls “a marvelous young playwright with a humane and wisely comic touch,” acknowledges that the play is derived largely from her own life experience as an American-born daughter of Egyptian Muslim immigrants raised in Mississippi.

“The main character, Hadia, isn’t me, but I’d have to say that we have a lot in common,” the 30-year-old Mississippi State graduate told Creative Loafing in a May 17, 2006 interview. “She’s 21 and gradually feels like she has to make a choice between being an American and being a Muslim….The play also deals with not being a Christian in the South.”

“The Perfect Prayer: An Inter-religious Dialogue” is sponsored by Sigma Iota Rho, Brenau’s International Studies Honor Society, and Students for a Progressive Society at Gainesville State University. It is the second in Brenau University’s “Tolerance” series, films and discussions that focus on international and local issues related to tolerance, designed to foster debate and promote understanding and appreciation in the community of others who are different.

The series also aims to increase awareness of important international issues and relate them to the local consciousness, to explore the presentation of these issues in “traditional” history, and to relate these historical events to current issues, Budryte said.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Budryte at 770-538-4652 or e-mail her at Directions on how to get to Thurmond-McRae Lecture Hall are available from Brenau’s website.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Closed but not over.

Well. It's been a week and a half and it's felt like longer and shorter on certain days.

Closing weekend was packed.

Having worked on the marketing for the show as well, I know that we came up $2,000 short of the entire run's goal... which i'm told is still pretty good for Horizon.

Closing night was fun as we get to sit with the cast and their loved ones for a little bit at a local restaurant (Wahoo! Grill in Decatur, should stop by and check it out. -end of shameless plug-)

Pictured above are cast members and their loved Lisa and her daughter Sophie. It was a quiet closing to a steady, beautiful ride of a first production.

There has been outside interest and i'm trying to finish all of that for a final package to send out. Working fast.
Thought i'd post.
There will be more posts, maybe, to keep all who are interested, updated on what happens after first productions.'s really about the 2nd production... *smile*

Friday, June 16, 2006


Got this email from the NEW marketing director at Horizon Theatre (YAY!!!):

Hi guys,

I thought that everyone might be interested to see the amazing places that
Suehyla's AP article was picked up. - Everything Michigan
Cnn.netscape.cnn - Washington's all news radio station - Victoria, Texas - KSL Radio Salt Lake City - Hilton Head, SC - Fredricksburg, VA - Connecticut Stage - Nashville, TN - The Woodlands, TX (Houston suburb)

Among others! Way to go!


So. Not to shabby for a bit of press, right?

My favorite HAS to be the Daily Star Egypt. Who knew??? *smile*

Several theatre companies (who attended the TCG conference) have expressed interest in reading the script. And i've had one more come to me via the AP article... which is great.

So. The next step is to meet with the literary manager (the ever serene Caleb) of Horizon Theatre and Lisa Adler; putting the final touches on the script before send off, creating a package, and following through on the interested parties.

This comes to the business of it all... *shrug* Again, we'll see. We'll learn (God willing, without a LOT of mistakes).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Associated Press

The AP interview was released yesterday.