‘Disgraced’ compels SU students to step up and do more


Photos courtesy of Seattle Rep

The Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Disgraced” is traveling the country and growing in popularity. People are taking their seats expecting a modern set, crisp stage lighting and strong acting. However, as the plot unravels the hard-hitting concepts of personal identity, outer prejudice and faith are taking many audiences by surprise.

“The opportunity to take this play that I have been working on for three years on a tour around the country only is going to broaden and expand the amazing dialogue and conversation that this play inspires,” said Kimberly Senior, the play’s director.

“Disgraced” centers around a Muslim raised apostate named Amir. He controversially speaks of the Koran as “one very long hate-mail letter to humanity.” His life as a Pakistani American is one that finds him chasing a successful American life with his American wife. However, as a disastrous dinner party unfolds, Amir is faced with his heritage. His character’s inner self-loathing is only heightened by the supporting characters emotional struggle with their own identities as well.

“Disgraced” focuses its theme around the characters relationship with each other, themselves, society, religion, and how they all intersect. It tells a conflicted, complex story that builds on itself well.

Photos courtesy of Seattle Rep
Photos courtesy of Seattle Rep

Seattle’s thriving culture of political, and social activism has driven the play to extend its shows through Feb. 6. It has continually sold out its shows and the post play discussions between audience members and cast members has incited a great deal of conversation. For those wishing to go more in depth, the opportunity to attend ‘Speak up,’ a moderated panel of experts, activist, artists and scholars has also been offered. “Disgraced” has made its mark on Seattle and for those still interested in seeing the production, it is running through Feb. 6.

Seattle University students who saw the play were eager to offer their own reactions to the play’s thought provoking content. A theme among those reactions was a feeling that the play’s characters stood for something larger than themselves.

“Their job defined them. Their other traits did as well, but every character seemed to have a ‘list’ of things that they represented—and stereotype was one of them. It was definitely a ‘punch in your face’ play of,” said senior interdisciplinary arts major Katie Beth Sramek.

With so much discussion of psychological, artistic, sociological and religious issues, everyone can attain something different from the play.

“The one that stuck out at me really was, it was about relationships. And, just about how miscommunications and what one feels about the self can…become interconnected with how that person interacts with other people,” said Winston P. Lin, a junior pre-major.

Lin also stayed for the post show discussion. He noted how the actors seemed concerned with some of the same issues and ideas Seattle U students are presented with at school.
“The actor had talked about intersectionality. That is probably a term that Seattle U students will want to learn about too, because it is talked about in some classes,” Lin said. “Did Amir do what he did because he was a man, because he was in [the corporate arena], because of his past, and all of that? There are different intersections [that explain] why he does what he does.”

Similarly, Sramek thought the complexity of the explanations behind the behavior in the play allowed the climax to have an explosive impact.

“The climax of this play was an extreme voicing of opinions,” Sramek said. “But nobody bothered to ask each other why [they acted out], they just got angry.”

“Disgraced” depicts the inner conflicts that occur when negative outlooks on the Islamic culture are allowed to permeate society. After 9/11, the shift to American Islamaphobia became evident. According to the FBI, 16.3 percent of the total of 1092 reported religiously bias offenses were anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014 alone. After the Paris Attacks, there has been a surge of hate crimes and discrimination once again. Vandalism on a Texas Mosque and hateful graffiti in Connecticut are just a few examples of this mindset manifesting itself once more on a large scale.

“So much about this play is about the viewer,” said Behzad Dabu, the actor who plays Abe. “We look at this as a service profession.”

The play has come out at a time when Muslim discrimination and Islamic stereotyping is a sore subject for Americans. The play itself opens and explores the subject by inviting thought, but the post talk discussions are meant to start a healing process.

Dabu gave his two cents at one of the post-show discussions by characterizing “Disgraced” as being about “understanding rage and where it comes from.”

“Racism and oppression towards religion is alive and well in today’s society and always has been,” said Jazzy Ducay, an intern at the Seattle Repertory Theater.

When asked what their overall opinion was, students noted that they thought the play incited good conversation.

“This play didn’t really pull at my emotions, but it definitely made me think, a lot; about myself, my position in the world, and how I can really be much more aware of the world happening around me,” Sramek said.

Ducay echoed Sramek’s sentiment, noting that the play was almost a call to action.

“I really need to step up in my community to spread awareness, to attempt to end oppression in all ways not just with racism,” Ducay said.

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