• Ann Tares

    Important article. Maybe other theaters will pick up plays about people, many of whom are Arab and/or Muslim, produced or read by the Noor Theatre (NY) and Golden Thread (CA).

    Three recent plays that can be seen as political but were good theater with fully developed Arab characters – OSLO, DISGRACED, INVISIBLE HAND. I think they’d be as interesting even if about different nations or an immigrant from a different group that Americans are prejudiced against, or kidnappers from Argentina not the Middle East.

    I’ve just written one about an Arab from the Middle East arrested on false accusations of violence, inspired by an actual 2010 trial in NYC. I didn’t write that for political reasons but because the defendant asked me to tell what really happened and it’s a dramatic story about people overcoming prejudices to fight false charges – a Muslim man defended by a Jewish woman and helped by a Christian woman in the midst of pressure to accept a plea deal for 10 years rather than face a NYC jury that might convict for 20+ years. I was focused on recreating a story about justice and the beauty of humans when, despite prejudices and fear, we can connect with each other’s humanity. Yes, it rights a specific wrong: the accuser’s lie, as he said in the trial, “for protection, so my wife and friends won’t know I sometimes have sex with men – but I’m not gay.” I would have written it if the people were all Euro-Americans in Kansas with fears and prejudices about each other’s social class and religion. But maybe it’s a political act just to deal with a trial involving an Arab. The script has won some contest awards/placements and has gone through many readings and revision phases, but it’s taking time to peddle. One artistic director said no by saying “great play, hard sell!” But the violent charges, not the Arab character, may be the reason for that comment… charges of raping and robbing a man at knife point are not the greatest way to expand a theater’s reach to a wide audience of ticket buyers.