The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

PlayMakers puts creative spin on award-winning "Disgraced"

PlayMakers Repertory Company production of Disgraced.  (Photo by Jon Gardiner)
Buy Photos PlayMakers Repertory Company production of Disgraced. (Photo by Jon Gardiner)

The audience attending Wednesday night’s performance of PlayMakers Repertory Company’s newest play, “Disgraced,” was asked this after the show. They then vocalized their feelings with words such as “despair,” “heavy,” “regret” and “drained,” among others.

Written by Ayad Akhtar, “Disgraced” focuses on Amir and Emily Kapoor, a married couple from New York City. Amir is a lawyer and hates his Islamic roots. Emily is an artist who is fascinated with Islamic art, which directly conflicts with her husband’s disdain for the religion in which he was raised.

The audience members were immersed in the story from the moment they walked in; the lights were already up on stage, and Amir and Emily were going about their lives.

Since the play’s opening night on Sept. 16, audiences and critics alike have responded positively to the show, which was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Pulitzer Prize. The innovative spin that PlayMakers has created has contributed to its success.

“I don’t like convention,” said director Shishir Kurup. “I never have. I like audiences coming into a space already in motion.”

He said he believes having the audience on three sides of the stage makes the show more inclusive, as opposed to a typical setup, where the audience is only in front.

“To me, it’s about getting an eavesdropping moment, because a play is a kind of eavesdropping moment overall,” he said.

But Kurup said his gut feeling was not his only motivation.

“On some level, the higher selves of these characters were sort of being cooperative to allow the next bit of the outcome of the play,” he said.

On Wednesday, audience members had the opportunity to meet with the five-person cast and ask questions about the acting or bigger ideas addressed within the play.

Students were eager to join the conversation and did not shy away from facing these issues.

“I think (religious prejudice) is a relevant issue in America, and it’s important that people think about it and are aware of it,” first-year Annie McDarris said.

Despite previous knowledge of the play, graduate student Nicole Damari said she was moved by the performance.

“I think what was interesting for me is that it was a really quick read, but seeing it was a much more visceral experience,” she said. It was challenging to watch but in a very positive way.”

Kurup said he believes the challenging aspect of the work is its most important aspect.

“I’ve always believed that my job is not to change the world,” he said. “My job is to inflame you so that you can go out and change the world.”



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