Disgraced Curtain Calls

 Name: Shirine Babb

 Role: Jory

 Hometown: I'm a native New Yorker. Born in Harlem and then my  family moved to Queens. However, I'm first generation American  of West Indian parents from Guyana so I spent the first five years  in South America.

How are you alike or different from your character? I find that I'm similar to Jory in the sense that I'm driven and ambitious with a desire to be successful who came from humble beginnings. I think as a first generation American there is pressure to make your parents migration to this country worth something. So in choosing a field or rather falling in love with a field I knew was unstable when it comes to employment, I knew I would have to work very hard.  I believe the only difference I see between Jory and myself (and not so much a difference in these troubling times), is believing that justice is still possible. The way in which one achieves, sometimes with force or protest is how one demands the order. It's unfortunate that ideologies have caused people to see black and white and areas of gray have been erased so it pushes people to the edge of demanding order because justice is corrupted.

What is your favorite moment in the play? I have a few of them... Mainly in act three because that's where the climax of the play takes place. But my top ranking moment is in act four in the last scene when Abe/Hussein confronts his uncle and gives him the speech about being disgraced. It has moved me from day one. What Abe/Hussein says is very cross cultured. The Europeans/Western ideologies/whatever is the dominate rule has set a standard as to what is acceptable in our society to succeed and it is constantly enforced by media/tabloids/Hollywood. It is a beautiful thing to see when an individual/group of people or cause forces us to change that perception and change the status quo. Also, that moment affects me the way it does because as a women of color I'm constantly being challenged by those set standards and have to question where I truly stand.

What has the audience response to your character been like? Well, by the time Jory comes on and act three gets rolling, I think my presence gives the audience the permission to laugh and breathe a little easier. She is in a way the comic relief with nuances of truth. A great deal has been put on the table by this point and the audience is trying to stomach it all and digest what's been served but sometimes a tough piece of meat goes down a little easier with a glass of fine wine. I'm that fine wine.

Why do you think Disgraced is the most produced play in America this season? Read the headlines. The world is off its axis and it has caused people to act really insane. Although this play is about relationships and how one man's perception, choices, and ideology affects those around him, there is a great deal of political and religious ideas as well. The play forces people to have a discussion. They may not agree with a lot of what is being said, but they will have to express why. In doing so, they will be confronted with their own prejudices. Hopefully those conversations will lead to actions because you know how the saying goes, "there can't be any change without action."

Name: Rajesh Bose

Role: Amir

Hometown: I consider both Pittsburgh, PA and Boston, MA my hometowns.

What is your favorite moment in the play? Revealing the portrait.

What has the audience response to your character been like? Like the play, it has been varied and complex. I do hope people walk away understanding Amir's deep pain and appreciating his humanity, despite his flaws.

Why do you think Disgraced is the most produced play in America this season? The play artfully pushes buttons in a time of unprecedented fear, violence, and ignorance towards Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim by the dominant culture.

Name: Benim Foster

Role: Isaac

Hometown: NYC, for the past 20 years. Born and raised in Long Island and then teen years in South Florida. 

How are you alike or different from your character? Well, Isaac definitely dresses better than I do, or at least more dapper. I'm mostly a T-shirt and jeans guy. We're both Jewish. We both appreciate art. He's the expert though. We both have healthy sense of humors. Isaac does like to hear himself talk a bit more than I do. 

What is your favorite moment in the play? This is tough, so many to choose from. For Isaac, I like playing of the dinner scene. A lot's going on. It's fun to play. The audience gets to see it all unfold and unravel in about 40 minutes. For the show, I love the final scene between Amir and Abe. It deals with some huge sociopolitical issues, while we watch a touching scene between uncle and nephew.  

What has the audience response to your character been like? I think they have fun with Isaac. He's a fun guy. He tends to make some smart, snarky comments which shakes things up. He's a little bit of an antagonist. It's juicy. They also appreciate and relate to his relationship with Jory. 

Why do you think Disgraced is the most produced play in America this season? Disgraced opens up a discussion. One that needs to be discussed. It makes no excuses or pulls no punches. It's unapologetic, in-your-face theatre. It's also a really smart, well-written play, which helps. Most importantly, it's a sociopolitical, timeless play that ultimately is a play about relationships. To steal one of Isaac's lines regarding art...Disgraced is "important and new and needs to be seen widely!"

Name: Nicole Lowrance

Role: Emily

Hometown: Austin, TX

How are you alike or different from your character? I feel a kindred spirit in Emily as a seeker. An artist that is searching/exploring new ideas and identities in search of a pathway to live in what she believes to be a more authentic and pure way. We differ in the way that I don't have as much good faith in people as she does.

What is your favorite moment in the play? I love it when Amir, Emily, Issac, and Jory finally all take their seats at the dining table. The construct of having dinner party, trying to mind manners, and the intense topics of conversation that hit a tipping point at that part of the play? It takes a good drama and then sets it on fire.

Why do you think Disgraced is the most produced play in America this season? Because it is VITAL. Theater can be a town hall meeting, a sanctuary, a think tank, a public forum. This play expands one's awareness of what they know, what they don't know, and what they think they know. It is a responsibility to explore the issues brought up in Disgraced. I believe the theater in America knows that people are looking to them to bring Disgraced to their town or city so they can be inspired and challenged as an audience member and supporter of the arts. I think the American Theater is in a really good place right now because this is the most produced play this season. I am proud to be a small part of this vital conversation.

 Name: Mohit Gautam

 Role: Abe

 Hometown: Stony Brook, NY

 How are you alike or different from your character? Abe and I  are alike in many ways but perhaps most interestingly is that we  both come from South Asian families with traditional values and growing up in America has taught us to learn how to find our place in the American fabric while staying true to our roots. We understand the necessity of assimilation yet maintaining the respect and virtue of where we come from. However, Abe's issues are more pressing because he is an immigrant and I am not. Another way we're different is that Abe is a Muslim and I am not. 

What is your favorite moment in the play? It's quite difficult to pinpoint a favorite moment in the play because it's all so good, but I really enjoy Amir's speech towards the end of scene three in which he confronts everyone in their discussion of Islam and the effect of aftershock of the questions that follow. I enjoy it because it's a moment of clarity and honesty and a study in just how impossible it is to hide from the world and your environment but also, and perhaps devastatingly, yourself. My favorite line in the play also comes in scene three from Isaac in a moment of unabashed humor: "You don't have to eat what she cooks." It gets me every time. That whole exchange does.    

What has the audience response to your character been like? When we began performances at The Long Wharf, one of the things I was excited about was living in the discussion that this play provokes, yet performance after performance, as our work became deeper and the world of the play became more dynamic, I noticed something quite peculiar about the audience reaction to my character. Perhaps its because of the bold choices we've made during rehearsal or simply because of what I'm saying, there seems to be an essence of shock amongst our audiences. A shock that requires you to question and think about what it is you're actually watching and what's below the surface. 

Why do you think Disgraced is the most produced play in America this season? I think Disgraced is the most produced play this season because it's a perfectly written, easy to produce, thought provoking, emotionally broadening, play. This play is also a great opportunity for actors of South Asian descent. If done well, this play sticks with you for a long time, a very long time, and it requires the audience to be involved. It's impossible to leave the theater after a performance without thinking about at least one moment.

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