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.