The Who & the What  Curtain Calls

Joseph MarrellaName: Joseph Marrella

Role: Eli

Why is this play important right now? Well, to me, the most obvious reason is that our society is filled with misconceptions about what it is to be Muslim in America in the 21st century. Beyond a handful of plays and a comic book like “Ms. Marvel,” there aren’t many outlets that are showing representations of what modern Muslim life is like in America. The Who & the What really gets beyond the stereotypes and buzzwords to show us the complexities of a culture’s heritage in the modern world. I also think that this play taps into the universal need to balance (and in some instances, challenge) the expectations placed on us by faith, family, and ourselves.

Have your parents ever done something that thoroughly embarrassed you? I don’t think you make it to adulthood without your parents thoroughly embarrassing you at least once. However, like many people, I have tried to block out those memories as best I can.

How are you like or not like your character? One of my favorite quotes comes from my hero, Jim Henson: “My hope is to leave this world better than when I got here.” I have always tried to live by that motto and I think that that is something inherent in Eli. At the same time, Eli is an incredibly passionate person. He speaks of connecting to a righteous rage. He will react fiercely to any feelings of being mistreated or insulted, which is something I have been known to do as well. I definitely relate to the balance Eli tries to maintain in being an open, caring, and supportive person who has a tendency to get fired up when he feels there is wrongdoing.

Describe your worst first date. I am a bad candidate for this question, as I married the first girl I ever dated. My wife Mandy and I started dating in high school and have been married for 8 years. We have a 1 year old little girl named Lily.


Turna MeteName: Turna Mete

Role: Mahwish

Why is this play important right now? It’s absolutely necessary right now to put different viewpoints on the American stage and this play helps accomplish that. This show encourages us to look beyond our world full of labels, those we place on others and on ourselves, to the genuine “who” existing underneath. Its one family’s illuminating, accessible and thought provoking story shared with an audience night after night and that’s a powerful thing.

Have your parents ever done something that thoroughly embarrassed you? When I was a freshman in high school and desperate to fit in I introduced a new friend to my Dad. Her name was Afton but for some reason he said “nice to meet you **” and used a slang curse word none the wiser that he had misheard or misspoke. Mortified.

How are you like or not like your character? Like Mahwish, I look to my sister for advice and guidance. She’s helped me through the little things and the big! Also I was always close with my father who, being raised in a different culture, sometimes drove me crazy but who always wanted the best for his children. I have nothing but admiration for that quality.

Describe your worst first date. It was in high school and with a friend of a friend. When he picked me up the back of his seats were so far down to look “cool” and my options were either lay down entirely or awkwardly hold my torso up as if I were on a moving pedestal. I remained upright. Then at dinner, after barely sitting down he started a fight with someone because they looked in our direction. There was no date two.


Aila PeckName: Aila Peck

Role: Zarina

Why is this play important right now? Personally, my work as an artist has been largely focused on the humanization and demystification of the immigrant experience. We live in a world where accusations, generalizations, and extremism build the foundation of our worldview. I believe this play is important because it not only humanizes the Muslim experience; it deconstructs the expectations and assumptions of what an American experience looks like. The play embraces the infinite ways the culture can present itself, giving voice and life to the marginalized

Have your parents ever done something that thoroughly embarrassed you? I think my father may give you a different answer, but no, my parents never truly embarrassed me. I take care of that myself just fine. 

How are you like or not like your character? I feel very connected to Zarina. I share her passion, her drive, and conviction. We both have found definition in the grey space of the American experience. I look up to Zarina for her sense of identity in the expanse. I respect and aspire to her endless discipline, her courage, and independence. I aspire to discover within myself a belief as deep as Zarina’s belief that what she is doing is important. Not only important, imperative. She is an authentic artist: an individual who refuses to allow fear or challenges to stand in the way of illumination.

Describe your worst first date. I once went to watch Purple Rain in the park for a first date. I was taken off guard by the old arm-around-the-shoulder and ended up panicking. Caught in the middle of refilling my glass, I manically spilt what seemed like an entire bottle of red wine in my dates lap. I couldn’t help but laugh. He was wearing very light colored pants. It was tragic. He left the movie early and I watched him as he left me for a clean pair of boxers, alone in the middle of the park. I felt awful. Ultimately, Prince was there to keep me company.

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